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Condo inspections get lawmakers' support after Surfside collapse

Wilfredo Lee
Crews clear the rubble of a condo building that collapsed in Surfside.

With the sponsor saying the changes are “long overdue,” the Florida House started moving forward Thursday with a plan for new condominium requirements after the deadly collapse last year of the Champlain Towers South building in Surfside.

“That is exactly what has led us here today, making sure that what happened on that day never happens again,” said House Pandemics & Public Emergencies Chairman Daniel Perez, a Miami Republican who is spearheading the proposed changes (PCB PPE 22-03).

The bill, which was approved by the Pandemics & Public Emergencies Committee, includes placing inspection requirements on condominium buildings that are three stories or higher.

Inspections by engineers or architects would be required to “recertify” buildings that have been occupied for 30 years — or 25 years if the buildings are within three miles of the coastline. After initial recertifications, the buildings would have to go through the process every 10 years.

If substantial damage is found, another round of inspections would be required. If condominium associations do not make necessary repairs cited in the second round of inspections, the “local building official must determine that the building is unsafe for human occupancy until such repairs are scheduled or begin,” the bill says.

The House bill is similar to a Senate measure (SB 1702), sponsored by Sen. Jennifer Bradley, R-Fleming Island, that also has started moving forward as lawmakers respond to the Surfside condominium collapse, which killed 98 people in June.

“This is a bill that is long overdue, and unfortunately it was an incident that brought us here,” Perez said.

Rep. Mike Caruso, R-Delray Beach, said he serves as president of two associations and has hundreds of condominiums in his coastal Palm Beach County district.

“When Surfside happened, our communities within my district immediately went out and went to the older buildings and did inspections, and certain buildings were condemned and people had to move out because they were on the verge of collapsing,” Caruso said. “The Surfside tragedy, as bad as it was, is going to save others.”

In addition to inspection requirements, the bill also includes issues such as trying to ensure that condominium associations have sufficient financial reserves to make repairs.

In part, it would require associations to complete what are known as reserve studies every 10 years for buildings that are three stories or higher. Such studies would include looking at the amounts of money needed for future major repairs and replacement of common elements of buildings.

The bill also would seek to force associations to collect adequate amounts of reserves.

Jim Saunders is the Executive Editor of The News Service Of Florida.