Surfside-Inspired Condo Reforms Approved Unanimously, Require Inspections, Ban Waiver of Maintenance Ratings | Florida

Thirty days before the one-year anniversary of the Champlain Towers South condominium collapse in Surfside that killed 98 people, the Florida Legislature finally approved legislation to prevent the tragedy from happening again.

Wednesday’s 110-0 vote at the State House, after approval by the Senate the day before, is now on its way (SB 4-D) to Gov. Ron DeSantis for consideration. The legislation would subject older condominiums and co-ops to routine inspections and end the ability of association boards to waive unit assessments needed to pay for maintenance and repairs.

During the House debate, Joe Geller, whose district includes Surfside, described how the family of a close friend survived the collapse and had to be ripped from their balcony by an aerial lift.

Geller praised House sponsor Daniel Perez, a Miami-Dade Republican, for persuading the Senate to agree to language barring the condo association from waiving those ratings — one of the sticking points that prevented a solution during the regular session of the Legislative Assembly earlier this year.

The condominium reforms were an addition to the special session’s original agenda — lawmakers had worked solely on a property insurance overhaul to help Florida’s slumping market.

Geller is leaving the Legislative Assembly this year. “If this is the last vote I take as a member of this House, it may be the proudest,” he said. “It’s important – it means there will be no repetition.”

“This bill is worth it,” said Michael Grieco, of a Miami-Dade.

“People talk about coming to Tallahassee to do a good job. It’s a real policy. This is real change, affecting real families in the past but also in the future,” Perez said.

Regular checks

The bill requires “milestone inspections” for structures three stories or more 30 years after they receive their certificates of occupancy and every 10 years thereafter.

If a structure is within three miles of the coast, like all Key Biscayne condominiums, the first inspection would occur 25 years after the certificate was issued.

Visual inspections would be carried out by licensed architects or engineers. If they find evidence of “substantial structural deterioration”, that would trigger more intrusive inspections. The results would go to the condominium boards and local building officials, as well as to each unit owner.

Councils would have one year to begin recommended repairs.

The legislation would make it mandatory to check the structural integrity reserves of condominiums to ensure that they are sufficient to pay for repairs. Associations could no longer waive assessments necessary to pay for repairs to roofs, load-bearing walls and structural members, foundations, fireproofing and fire protection systems, plumbing, electrical systems, waterproofing and exterior paint and windows.

The special treatment for coastal structures is necessary because of the damage salty sea air can inflict on steel-reinforced structures. A Miami-Dade County grand jury report found that was a factor in the Surfside disaster.

Florida has some 500,000 condo units between 40 and 50 years old and more than 100 that are 50 years old or older, but no requirement to inspect them outside of local mandates in Broward and Miami-Dade counties.

This story appeared on the website of the Florida Phoenix, a nonprofit news organization dedicated to covering state government and Tallahassee politics. You can visit them by clicking here.

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