Surfside condo collapse: Tampa Bay inspector shares warning signs for high-rise buildings

Pinellas County

PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) – The high-rise collapse in the Miami area has some Tampa Bay high-rise condo residents expressing concerns about their own buildings.

But a building inspector here in Pinellas County said there’s not much to worry about.

“This kind of collapse is very rare, very rare,” said Tom Tafelski, president of Thomas Inspections Services.

It’s rare – but troubling.

“Horror. I felt terrible, I can’t even imagine the fear if you were in that building,” said Tiffany Smith when asked about her reaction to the Miami high-rise building collapse.

Smith lives on the 8th floor of a high-rise in downtown St. Pete and can’t help but have concerned thoughts.

“You can’t think about it when something this horrible happens,” Smith said.

Tafelski said those who are concerned can look for warning signs.

“The paint has got to be maintained,” he explained. “It’s not just there just to make the building look pretty, it’s there to maintain the exterior of the building, to prevent water intrusion.”

If water gets in, he said, problems can escalate.

“You have steel inside the concrete, that steel has got to be maintained in good condition,” he added.

Tafelski wants to be clear that he’s not an engineer, architect or design professional. However, he is a private building inspector who has been in the business for 38 years and has inspected more than 15,000 buildings.

Tafelski said for peace of mind, high-rise owners or renters can ask their Board of Directors one question: “Is building maintenance up to code?”

“They’ve got to rely on the Board of Directors. That Board of Directors has a duty to do the right thing, has a duty to muster up the funds to maintain that building,” Tafelski said.

He said if you’re a homeowner, think twice before pushing back about increasing monthly fees. Tafelski said maintaining a building is critical, especially if an emergency issue arises like if the building starts settling.

He compared buying property near saltwater with going to war, but he said it’s a war you can win with consistent maintenance.

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