Broward County Condominium Structural Issues Committee

    I’m Steve Geller, and I’m Of-Counsel to Sachs Sax Caplan.  I’m an “A-V Preeminent” Lawyer, listed in both “Florida’s Best Lawyers”, “South Florida Super Lawyers”, etc.  I’ve been practicing law for 39 years, and when I’m not practicing law, I’m also a politician.  I served in the Florida House and Senate for 20 years, including serving as the Senate Minority (Democratic) Leader, and I’m currently a Broward County Commissioner and Mayor of Broward County.

    As Mayor, after the collapse of the Champlain Towers South Condominium in Miami-Dade County, I created and appointed the “Broward County Condominium Structural Issues Committee”, to study the issues involving Condominium living and safety.  This Committee consisted of 16 members.  I served as Chair.  Other members included two State Senators, two State Representatives, two Mayors, three City Commissioners, representatives of condominium associations, engineers, attorneys, (including SSC’s own Michael Chapnick, Board Certified in Condominium and Planned Development Law), etc.  All three City Commissioners were experts in Condominium issues.  The Committee met for over 26 hours, and heard expert testimony from 12 speakers, including engineers, attorneys, insurance experts, an environmental expert testifying on the impact of sea level rise on condominiums, etc.  The Committee also took public testimony.

    The Committee spent hours debating issues and reached recommendations that I wanted to share with you.

    There was extensive testimony about the inherent tension which sometimes exist between unit owners and a Condominium Board relating to expenditures.  Many condominium residents, particularly seniors, don’t want to or feel that they can’t pay for proper maintenance or for reserves, which are moneys set aside for large future expenditures.  For example, if you know that you’re going to need a new roof in 15 years, you should be setting aside one fifteenth of that money each year.  Florida law requires that this money be set aside, but also permits the unit owners to waive the reserves by a majority vote. There was extensive testimony that better maintenance would be far more cost effective than having to replace structural support later.  The Committee recommended that in order to waive reserves, the unit owners would have to receive more information, and pass a waiver by a ¾ vote instead of a simple majority vote.

    The Committee made numerous other recommendations.  These recommendations included: Ensuring that appropriate concrete be used in condominium construction; that “reserve studies” already required in Florida Statutes be expanded to provide additional information, including the costs of deferred maintenance; that all condominiums have property insurance instead of the current requirement that they be required to use their best efforts to obtain insurance; that all buildings be required to be assessed for structural safety at 30 years and thereafter at least every 10 years, that larger condominiums be required to hire a Community Association Manager unless a majority of the Board members met certain continuing education requirements; etc.

    We will be sending the final report of the Committee to the Florida Legislature, to local municipalities, and will share it with Miami-Dade and Palm Beach Counties. We hope to be able to prevent future tragedies like the one that happened in Surfside.

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