Florida lawmakers have taken steps to address confusion surrounding the implementation of a new law aimed at increasing building inspections and maintenance standards for condominiums across the state. The changes proposed under Senate Bill 154 (SB 154) are intended to bring greater clarity, flexibility, and transparency to the law, responding to concerns raised by condo residents.
The need for regulatory reform was underscored by the partial collapse of Champlain Towers South in Surfside in June 2021, which tragically claimed 98 lives. Last year, Senate Bill 4-D (SB 4-D) established the first statewide inspection program for aging condos, requiring structural integrity reserve studies for condos three stories or higher. These studies, conducted by architects or engineers, assess the need for repairs to critical building features and determine the required funds for such repairs.
However, the implementation of SB 4-D left several unresolved issues and led to confusion among condo residents. In response, Senator Jennifer Bradley sponsored SB 154 to address these concerns and provide greater clarity to residents. The new bill passed unanimously and aims to streamline the inspection process and improve oversight while acknowledging the need for additional financial measures.
Key highlights of the proposed changes include:
Inspection Frequency: Buildings within three miles of the coastline will now be subject to inspection after 30 years of occupancy, instead of 25 years. Subsequent inspections will be required every 10 years.
Qualified Inspectors: A team of design professionals, led by an engineer or architect as a registered design professional, can conduct milestone inspections, addressing the shortage of qualified inspectors.
Deadline Extension: The deadline for completing the structural integrity reserve study has been extended to January 1, 2025. Funds allocated for repairs must not be repurposed for other uses.
Local Authority: Local officials are granted more oversight authority and flexibility. They can require inspections after 25 years based on environmental conditions, such as proximity to salt water. Inspection deadlines can also be extended if contract-related delays occur.
Insurance: The requirement for condo owners under Citizens Property Insurance to obtain flood insurance has been removed.
Clarifications: The legislation clarifies that milestone inspections apply to residential condos and mixed-use buildings. Additionally, all unit owners are responsible for financing necessary repairs.
While SB 154 addresses the procedural aspects of condo inspections, it does not directly address the financial burden that necessary repairs may place on condo residents. Rep. Vicki Lopez, who worked on the bill with Sen. Bradley, highlighted the importance of addressing these financial implications next year. Proposed solutions could include financing options or a “glide path” for assessments to help residents manage increased costs.
The efforts to revise the legislation underscore the complexities of balancing safety with affordability in the condominium sector. With growing concerns and lessons learned from recent incidents, lawmakers remain committed to finding comprehensive solutions that prioritize the well-being of condo residents while ensuring financial feasibility.
Original Article By Mary Ellen Klas- Times/Herald Tallahassee Bureau