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Florida Judge Orders Surfside Condo Association Board Into Receivership

Search and rescue teams continue to look for survivors and remains this week in the partially collapsed 12-story Champlain Towers South condo building in Surfside, Fla.
Michael Reaves
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Search and rescue teams continue to look for survivors and remains this week in the partially collapsed 12-story Champlain Towers South condo building in Surfside, Fla.

Updated July 2, 2021 at 6:01 PM ET

A Miami-Dade Circuit judge has placed the Champlain Towers South condo association into receivership. Judge Michael Hanzman appointed Michael Goldberg to handle all of the condo association's financial matters while the court hears lawsuits related to the building's collapse.

Five lawsuits have been filed so far, and more claims are expected in the coming months.

Authorities have confirmed the deaths of 22 people and say 126 others remain unaccounted for after the catastrophic collapse of most of the 12-story building on June 24. Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said she has signed an order to demolish the remaining part of structure that she will invoke when engineers advise her it should be done.

At a hearing Friday, Hanzman commended the condo association for agreeing to receivership.

"These individuals who are unit owners here and served on the board are in a tremendously difficult time, a tremendously stressful time. And I commend all of them for having the wisdom and the insight to realize it is time to step aside and let an independent party with no stake in the proceedings, either emotionally or financially, step in and take care of business."

A lawyer representing the condo association says the board held a meeting Thursday and voted unanimously to accept receivership. "Every living and accounted for board members was present. There was one board member who remains regrettably unaccounted for as a result of the collapse of the condominium tower."

A lawyer for the condo association told the judge the building's insurance coverage totals $48 million. The judge said the condo's land will also be an asset, which he estimates will add between $30 million and $50 million to the fund.

The judge instructed the receiver to make arrangements immediately to authorize payments to those directly affected by the building collapse. He instructed the receiver to provide payments up to $10,000 to families of the missing or deceased or to those residents who need housing assistance. And he said $2,000 payments should be made available to families dealing with end-of-life (funeral) costs. Those payments would be an advance on the total recovery that will be available to all parties directly affected by the collapse.

The judge took a firm tone with attorneys, telling them they should consider their role in the case "a public service" and that he wanted to "avoid as much litigation and contention as possible."

He said he wants the case wrapped up within 12 months.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

As NPR's Miami correspondent, Greg Allen reports on the diverse issues and developments tied to the Southeast. He covers everything from breaking news to economic and political stories to arts and environmental stories. He moved into this role in 2006, after four years as NPR's Midwest correspondent.