Courtesy of CBS MIAMI
By CBS MIAMI TEAM TALLAHASSEE
Published February 23, 2022
TALLAHASSEE -- A Florida Senate committee
Tuesday backed a proposal that would make changes to a
condominium-safety law passed last year after the deadly
collapse of the Champlain Towers South building in Surfside.
The proposal (SB 154),
which deals with issues such as inspections and
condominium-association financial reserves, came as
associations try to carry out the law passed during a May
special legislative session - and grapple with increased
costs for residents.
During Tuesday's meeting of the Senate Regulated Industries
Committee, Sen. Shevrin Jones, a Miami Gardens Democrat
whose district includes Surfside, asked what would be done
to "provide relief" to condominium owners who could be
forced to pay more because of last year's law.
"I hear you, and we have heard from folks throughout the
state on that issue, on the question of will it be
burdensome," bill sponsor Jennifer Bradley, R-Fleming
Island, said. "And I cannot sit here today and tell you that
there is not an owner in the state of Florida who won't see
an increase because of this ... effort on the part of the
Legislature to make sure that folks that live in condos are
The Regulated Industries Committee voted unanimously to
approve the bill, which, for example, would make changes in
what are known as "milestone" inspections for condominium
buildings three floors or higher.
Under last year's law, inspections are required for
buildings that have been occupied for 30 years - or 25 years
if the buildings are within three miles of a coastline.
After initial inspections, the buildings have to go through
the process every 10 years.
The new bill would ease that somewhat, allowing buildings
within three miles of the coastline to be inspected after
they have been occupied for 30 years. It would allow local
officials to require the inspections after 25 years of
occupancy depending on "local circumstances, including
environmental conditions such as proximity to salt water."
Also, the bill would allow local officials to extend
inspection deadlines if building owners have entered into
contracts with architects or engineers but the inspections
cannot be finished in time.
"We don't want to have a gotcha," Bradley said.
A key issue in last year's law (SB 4-D) dealt with
condominium associations having adequate financial reserves
to make needed repairs to buildings. In part, the law
required what are known as "structural integrity reserve"
studies to help determine how much money needs to be set
Part of the focus on the issue stems from some associations
in the past not placing enough money in reserves, which now
could lead to residents facing hefty costs if buildings need
major repairs. The studies are required to take into account
a list of structural features of buildings, such as roofs,
load-bearing walls and fire-protection systems.
Bradley said the bill includes changes such as removing
floors from the list. Also, the bill proposes allowing the
studies to "recommend that reserves do not need to be
maintained for any item for which an estimate of useful life
and an estimate of replacement cost or deferred maintenance
expense cannot be determined" - a provision that Bradley
said could apply to foundations.
The Legislature and Gov. Ron DeSantis approved last year's
law after 98 people died in the June 2021 collapse of the
Surfside building. While the law was aimed at bolstering the
safety of buildings, officials also said the collapse is
having ramifications for condominium associations trying to
buy property insurance.
Insurance lobbyist Lisa Miller, a former state deputy
insurance commissioner, told the Senate committee that
insurance companies "are looking at this bill."
"The companies need to be able to see what's in them (the
buildings)," Miller said. "Before Champlain Towers, they
really were insuring them based on the agent's word or just
data that wasn't transparent."
154 -- FS 718 + FS 719