Florida Lawmakers Consider Changes to Condo Safety Requirements

Published Date: February 23, 2023

A proposal to amend a condominium-safety law, enacted in response to the tragic collapse of Champlain Towers South in Surfside, Florida, has gained support from the Florida Senate committee. The proposed changes, outlined in Senate Bill 154 (SB 154), aim to address concerns raised by condominium associations and residents as they navigate the increased costs and implementation challenges of last year’s law.

The original law, Senate Bill 4-D (SB 4-D), was enacted after the collapse of the Champlain Towers South building in June 2021, resulting in 98 fatalities. It introduced a statewide inspection program for aging condominiums, mandating structural integrity reserve studies to assess the need for repairs and allocate necessary funds. However, the complexity and financial implications of the law prompted a reevaluation to ensure both safety and practicality.

Key points of the proposed changes include:

Inspection Frequency: The proposed changes would modify the requirement for milestone inspections of condominium buildings with three or more floors. Instead of mandating inspections after 30 years or 25 years within three miles of the coastline, the proposed bill would offer more flexibility. Buildings within three miles of the coastline could undergo inspection after 30 years of occupancy. Local officials would also have the discretion to demand inspections after 25 years based on local circumstances, including environmental factors such as proximity to saltwater.

Deadline Extensions: The new bill would enable local officials to extend inspection deadlines in cases where building owners have contracted architects or engineers but the inspections cannot be completed within the stipulated timeframe. This provision aims to prevent undue pressure on building owners and contractors.

Reserve Studies: Addressing the financial aspect of the law, the proposed changes in SB 154 include modifications to “structural integrity reserve” studies. Certain elements, such as foundations, could be exempt from mandatory reserves if estimates of useful life and replacement costs are unavailable. The changes are designed to enhance practicality while maintaining safety standards.

 

The Florida Senate’s Regulated Industries Committee unanimously approved the proposed changes, acknowledging the need for balance between safety requirements and affordability for condo residents. Last year’s law, though crucial for bolstering building safety, has posed challenges for condo associations, including financial burdens and insurance considerations.

Insurance lobbyist Lisa Miller emphasized that the proposed amendments are being closely monitored by insurance companies. The amendments aim to provide clarity, flexibility, and practicality to condo residents and associations while ensuring that the lessons learned from the Surfside tragedy contribute to enhanced safety and preparedness.

The proposed changes are set to ease the implementation of last year’s law while safeguarding residents’ interests. As legislators navigate the intricate balance between safety and financial feasibility, the evolving regulations are testament to the commitment to learning from past events and ensuring the well-being of Florida’s condo communities.

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Original Article By CBS News by Jim Saunders- News Service of Florida

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