Since the collapse of the Champlain
Tower South in Surfside in June 2021, the CBS12 News I Team
has been reporting on the successes and failures of efforts
calling for new condo safety regulations at the local and
Here, we explore where things stand in Boca Raton, the first city to take action after the tragedy. The first batch of 14 condominium inspection reports are in and under review.
750 Ocean was hoping for an extension to complete concrete renovations and balcony makeovers, the city said no.
"Now with all these regulations that are
being implemented, it definitely puts an increase- even
insurance went up 30 percent- it’s a huge increase, buts its
condo life and its just something we have to go through,"
said Devin Wardell, Property Manager at 750 Ocean, formerly
known as Sabal Ridge Apartments, 1 of the 14 properties
inspected in the first wave.
Devin Wardell doesn’t just work at 750 Ocean - he lives there. A former security guard for the building, he was working towards a career in law enforcement, then, right before he left to become a cop, the board asked if he’d stay on and run the place.
"So the building was built in1968. There's 32 units here, it's very small intimate building. We have 16 floors," Wardell said.
And Wardell tells the I-Team he requested an extension on the inspection deadline for the building, not because he was worried about structural problems, but because 750 Ocean had concrete restoration and balcony make-overs already scheduled. Wouldn’t it make sense to get a full inspection after that work was done, he tried to explain.
The city said no.
Regardless, the 54 year old building did just fine on the structural inspection.
"So the structural engineer, Biller Reinhart, they love the building, they said this building is great, we have no problem signing off on this building," Wardell said.
None of the other 13 buildings responded to our requests to discuss the inspections.
Later this month, we’ll check with Boca Raton officials to see if anything concerning has been found.
And as far as inspection deadlines go, an expert we talked with said when the safety of residents is at stake, no one should count on getting extra time.
I think you have to act right now and be prepared as if these were concrete deadlines and get this underway.
Becker Attorney Donna Dimaggio-Berger used to work as a lobbyist in Tallahassee. She says one thing the new law did not seem to consider was the work-load for qualified structural engineers who need to do these critical inspections and who also need to monitor repairs if they identify safety concerns.
"As we sit here today, the pool of people available to undertake these inspections is pretty narrow, and then if there’s problems found, the pool gets even narrower," Dimaggio-Berger said.
Another thing that worries her is a bill that’s being drafted for possible consideration by the legislature next month. It would reduce the amount of time condo owners have to hold contractors liable for construction defects from 10 years to 7, which the attorney says could leave residents holding the bag.
"We now have thousands of Florida condo associations, who will be spending millions of dollars on repair work, and at the same time, we’re going to make it harder for them to go after a contractor for shoddy work?! It seems like the left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing," Dimaggio-Berger said.
Rep. John Synder (R) of Stuart is introducing that bill and the I Team has asked him for an interview to address those concerns.