Lawsuit Filed After Mandated SC Tower Evacuation
Just weeks after the evacuation of the Renaissance Tower in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, residents of the structure have filed a lawsuit against the building’s management team, including the Homeowners Association and Empress Management.
According to reports, the lawsuit alleges that members of the HOA and management company knew “for years” about worsening steel conditions and corrosion within the tower’s foundation but took no action to repair the structure.
As the result of a recent inspection, at the beginning of October, the Horry County Code Enforcement and a private structural engineer hired by Empress Management announced that the Renaissance Tower was unsafe.
In a formal announcement, the management company shared with residents that deterioration in the structure’s foundation was “substantially worse” in comparison to a previous analysis.
Though not affiliated with the Renaissance Tower, structural engineer Steven Strickland shared with WMBF News that buildings constructed along the coast are typically built with steel foundations that are then covered in layers of concrete.
However, the salty air can cause steel members to corrode beneath the concrete barriers over time.
Residents file federal lawsuit against Myrtle Beach’s Renaissance Tower HOA, management company https://t.co/uMvUAHQRa4— Sunset Beach News (@sunsetbeachnews) October 23, 2022
“But, when the steel starts to corrode, below the surface of the concrete, there are visible signs that you would generally be able to see where there’s maybe rust stains or cracking or spalling which would be cracking or chipping of the concrete,” said Strickland. “That are indicators that there may be other issues that may be deeper issues that need to be examined.”
In an interview, Strickland further shared that after any signs of damage or corrosion are identified—even the smallest signs of deterioration—within a structure, a routine repair process should be put into effect.
“There is a pretty well-defined process for concrete repair,” said Strickland. “It is a routine process that occurs in many of the buildings that are older in our area where we go through and assess and identify the locations where we have erosion damage or spalling damage.”
In conclusion, Strickland expressed that it was important to stay proactive about these types of repairs, even when seemingly minor, to avoid entire closures as witnessed in the case of the Renaissance Tower.
As a result of the evacuation of the 22-story, 322-unit residential high-rise in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, residents shared weeks after the mandated order that they were still without homes, with several reportedly living in tents at a nearby campground.
Not long after the mandated evacuation of the Renaissance Tower due to “unsafe” conditions, condo owners filed a federal class-action lawsuit against the building’s board of directors, which includes members of the HOA, and Empress Management.
Both alleged parties are commonly referred to in the lawsuit as “Regime.”
In the suit, the residents allege that members of the HOA “knew for years about steadily worsening damage to structural steel components supporting the building yet failed to undertake further inspections or any repairs and allowed the damage to worsen.”
Additionally, the complaint shares that Renaissance condo owners face a more than $2 million assessment for repairs to the building’s structural steel, as well as an unknown additional assessment for temporary shoring to make the building safe for occupants, and costs for “the expanded scope of repairs needed to address the extremely damaged condition of the steel.”
The suit further alleges that the Regime neglected the issues for the better part of five years. Back in 2016, the structure underwent an inspection where a professional engineer found signs of corrosion. In the report, the engineer shared that steel under the tower “was in bad shape and need to be repaired or replaced.”
While the HOA attempted to bid a repair project in 2018, no work was ever completed at the site. Two years later, in a newsletter issued by the high-rise condo, it was shared that the Board had been delaying repairs to the damaged steel as the result of another project, which involved replacing some of the building’s cooler components and a cooling tower.
The residents point out in their lawsuit that these structural upgrades were “not safety or structural integrity issues and were not worsening such that a delay in their replacement would result in increased repair costs.”
After the collapse of the Champlain Towers South in Southside, Florida, the Regime requested that an engineer return to the residential complex and outline repair plan options for the Board to vote on. The same engineer that inspected the structure in 2018 returned in 2021 and reported that the Renaissance Tower’s condition had only worsened as no repairs were made since the previous inspection.
With new plans in place for repairs, construction on the foundation began in the months that followed. However, on Oct. 7, construction workers called in the engineer again to evaluate the condition of the foundation.
The call was made after crews who were removing materials from under the building found the steel members to be more corroded and weakened than previously expected.
As a result of the latest inspection, the engineer deemed the building as “not structurally sound” which in turn, evoked a mandated evacuation of all residents. Reports indicate that in 2022, tower management reserve funds totaled “less than $1.3 million.”
“Due to the lack of maintenance and repairs and the grossly insufficient reserves held by the Regime, the unit owners are being forced to pay substantial assessments for repairs to the building and the assessments continue to increase given the temporary shoring and expanded steel repairs now necessary at the building,” the suit states.
It is for these reasons and the record of prior conditions, that the residents have filed a lawsuit against tower management for negligence, a breach of fiduciary duties and breached by-laws.
A full copy of the lawsuit can be viewed here.