‘It should have come down’: Renaissance Towers lawsuit states board members knew of dangerous conditions, acted negligently

Published: Jan. 11, 2023 at 6:59 PM EST
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HORRY COUNTY, S.C. (WMBF) - Myrtle Beach welcomes millions of vacations each year, many of which stay in oceanfront properties.

One of those properties is the Renaissance Towers.

It currently sits vacant, after it was deemed unsafe by Horry County Code Enforcement and a private engineer hired by the building’s HOA board on Oct. 7, 2022.

RELATED COVERAGE | Renaissance Tower deemed unsafe, structural corrosion could be a factor

Inspection reports and repair permits obtained by WMBF News through the Freedom of Information Act show an engineer, named Timothy Donohue, inspected the building that same day it was deemed unsafe.

The engineer said the damage was so extreme, no one should go inside.

An incident report shows hundreds of those condo owners and renters had less than an hour to grab what they could and evacuate.

While it’s not clear just how many people were forced out we know authorities evacuated more than 300 units.

The property management company, Empress Management, emailed residents later on Oct. 7 saying the building’s foundation was deteriorating and was “substantially worse” than what the “previous analysis was able to show.”

A contract obtained by WMBF News, also through a Freedom of Information Act request, between Horry County and the company hired, called Pro-Con, shows all restorations for the building should be finished no later than April of 2023.

Residents decided to take action by filing a class action lawsuit less than a week after the building was deemed unsafe against Renaissance Towers’ HOA board.

The lawsuit claims condo owners had to live in tents at a nearby campground because they weren’t able to get into their units.

Attorney Eliottee Quinn represents several owners and described what his clients tell him they went through the night they had to evacuate.

“They weren’t told how long they would be gone, they thought it’d be an hour or two. So, they left medications that they need to take on a daily basis in the building. They didn’t know that they were going to need to pack all of their clothes, they’ve now had to buy an entirely new wardrobe,” said Quinn. “They left computers or identifying documents; passports, birth certificates in the building and haven’t had the opportunity to get them.”

Quinn and the lawsuit claim the HOA and management company could have stepped in sooner preventing residents from having to leave in the first place.

The lawsuit claims building managers knew for more than 5 years about the Renaissance Tower’s foundation corrosion and not only delayed repairs but finally brought in engineers to inspect the tower’s foundation, as a result of the deadly June 2021 tower collapse in Surfside, Florida.

Quinn said he believes, and according to the lawsuit, the members of the Renaissance Towers may have known about this for some time.

“The board knew years ago, at least 5 – 6 years ago of these problems that the building had been told that they needed for it to be repaired,” said Quinn. “Then, instead of addressing these issues, did other repairs to non-safety non-structural elements of the building and delayed repairing these issues.”

A man, who wished to remain anonymous, came forward after seeing WMBF News’ report on Renaissance Towers in October. He said he was the former head of maintenance at the Renaissance Towers 30 years ago.

He claims he and the original architect inspected the building in 1989, a few days after Hurricane Hugo slammed into the Grand Strand.

He said they noticed a two-inch crack on the side of the building that started on the first floor of the building and went all the way up to the roof.

“He said the building was no longer safe to have any residents living in that building,” said the former head of maintenance.

Currently, the attorney representing the HOA board filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit against them.

Quinn said he has asked for more time to respond to their motion to dismiss. In that response, it states the plaintiff, or Quinn, has until Jan. 26, 2023, to file their response.

Quinn also said he is in the process of hiring a private engineer to inspect the building.

Check back with WMBF News for updates.