After Surfside collapse, Florida Legislature passes condominium safety legislation

Gov. Ron DeSantis is expected to sign the bill.

Updated: May 28, 2022 - 10:56pm

A bill to ensure condominium safety passed both chambers of the Florida legislature and is headed to Gov. Ron DeSantis’ desk. He’s expected to sign it.

Within days of the special legislative session starting this week, both chambers passed bills to reform property insurance and increase safety measures for condominiums. Both bills, Senate Bill 2D, Property Insurance, and Senate Bill 4D, Building Safety, were sponsored by state Sen. Jim Boyd, R-Bradenton, who chairs the Senate Committee on Banking and Insurance.

The new law will “keep Florida’s condominium residents safe in the aftermath of Surfside,” Florida House Speaker Chris Sprowls, R-Palm Harbor, said. It includes a “House-championed measure that requires condo associations to fully fund a reserve so that repairs and maintenance are covered and completed in a timely manner.”

Last June, Champlain Towers South, a 12-story beachfront condominium in the Miami suburb of Surfside, partially collapsed, killing 98 people. Injured survivors were rescued from the rubble. Upon investigation, the primary factor causing its collapse was long-term degradation of the concrete structural support under the dwelling units in the basement level parking garage. Water had penetrated the area and corroded the reinforced steel. Although problems had been reported in 2018, repairs still hadn’t been made.

After the Surfside collapse, legislators passed reforms, which SB 4D builds upon.

House Pandemics & Public Emergencies Committee Chair Daniel Perez, R-Miami, who sponsored the House version of the bill, said, “Since the tragedy that took place in Surfside nearly a year ago, the hurt of my community has pushed me to pursue meaningful reform to help ensure that this kind of preventable, horrific event never happens again. In order to honor the 98 lives lost and hundreds affected, I have been unwavering in my belief that there must be association reserve funding to fix the safety problems discovered during inspections.”

SB 4D requires condominium associations to fully fund a non-waivable reserve so that structural integrity repairs and maintenance can be covered. It also creates a statewide structural inspection program to conduct inspections within certain time frames of condominium and cooperative buildings that are three stories or taller located within three miles of the coast. Inspection report results must be provided to local building officials, associations, and unit owners, according to the bill summary.

The bill also requires condominium and cooperative associations to conduct a “structural integrity reserve study” every 10 years for each building that is three stories or more. The study must include the roof, load bearing walls, floor, foundation, fireproofing and fire protection systems, plumbing, and any item with a deferred maintenance or replacement cost that exceeds $10,000.

Effective July 1, 2024, condominium and cooperative associations are prohibited from using reserves outside of their purposes, waiving the reserves, or reducing the funding of reserves for certain structural components of the property, according to the bill.