Both Miami-Dade and Broward Counties require that, unless exempted, buildings greater than a designated square footage (2000 square feet for Miami-Dade County, and 3500 square feet for Broward County) be inspected for structural integrity and electrical safety issues forty years after the date of original construction, and thereafter, every ten years. While Palm Beach County does not presently require such inspections, the counties and cities in Palm Beach are in the process of reviewing these issues, and requirements similar to those of Miami-Dade and Broward Counties may be implemented in the near future.
Each June in Broward County, a list of buildings requiring inspection is prepared and sent to the various cities in the county. Those cities then send out notices of inspection to the buildings and provide them with ninety days within which to obtain structural integrity and electrical safety inspections from a licensed engineer or architect, and to submit their report to the city’s building officials. If structural and/or electrical defects are identified, which may pose an immediate threat to life safety, those repairs must be completed within one hundred eighty days from the date of the building inspection report.
In Florida, condominium associations have several options available to fund the cost of repairs identified by the engineer or architect’s report, including reserves, special assessments, and/or bank loans or lines of credit. First and foremost, the use of reserve funds should be explored. Section 718.112, Fla. Stat., provides that a condominium association’s budget “must include reserve accounts for capital expenditures and deferred maintenance. These accounts must include, but are not limited to, roof replacement, building painting, and pavement resurfacing, regardless of the amount of deferred maintenance expense or replacement cost, and any other item that has a deferred maintenance expense or replacement cost that exceeds $10,000. The amount to be reserved must be computed using a formula based upon estimated remaining useful life and estimated replacement cost or deferred maintenance expense of each reserve item.” Reserve funds must be “fully funded,” and while a condominium association’s membership may vote annually to either waive or fund reserves less than fully-funded, having reserves available and including categories for structural and electrical maintenance, may help to avoid the need to levy special assessments, and/or to obtain bank loans, to fund necessary repairs.
Condominium associations are obliged to maintain, repair, and replace their association’s common elements, and to use their best business judgment in managing and operating their respective properties. Paying attention to on-going building maintenance, performed at periodic intervals, will help to avert large, “lump sum,” maintenance and repair costs, and will provide for more predictable budgeting. Open and honest communication between the board and membership regarding the need for maintenance and repairs will go a long way towards preventing surprise and dissention in the community, and perhaps avoid a tragedy.
Whether your association is approaching its time for certification (or recertification), or whether you are setting up a “long-range” plan, we strongly recommend consulting with professionals such as engineers, architects, accountants, managers, and attorneys, to help you navigate this process, and to ensure that your buildings stay structurally sound for many years to come.
SACHS SAX CAPLAN, P.L.
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