The proverb “time and tide wait for no man” may be true, particularly regarding the impact of the sunny, salty, and windy conditions on structures along Florida’s coasts. However, a recent law requiring periodic inspections of buildings will help protect community associations and the millions of people who live in condominium units from the harsh reality revealed by that expression. These new safety measures may impact associations’ finances but careful planning ahead should mitigate against any severe impact on condominium unit owners.
Recently, and almost a year after the catastrophic collapse of Champlain Towers South in Surfside, Governor DeSantis signed into law requirements, unanimously approved by both chambers of the legislature for periodic inspections based on the age and location of buildings and for association condominium boards to set aside sufficient reserve money to cover future repairs. Though the law took effect on May 26th, condominium buildings within the “milestone” age requirements have until December 31, 2024, to comply with the inspection requirements. The milestone requirements apply to condominium buildings three (3) stories or higher and require that the following be re-certified as safe: (i) all buildings thirty years old or older; and (ii) those buildings at least twenty-five years old and within three (3) miles of the coast. Every ten (10) years after that, all buildings to which the statewide structural inspection program applies must be re-certified again. Generally, initial milestone structural inspections must be conducted by December 31st of the building’s 30th or 25th year based on the date the certificate of occupancy for the building was issued and depending upon its location in relation to the coast. The new laws will not apply to most Chapter 720 Homeowners Associations provided that none of the structures within the community are three (3) stories or higher.
There are two (2) phases for mandatory inspections. If a visual inspection by a licensed engineer or architect reveals no signs of substantial structural deterioration, no further action is necessary until the next required inspection. However, if structural deterioration is detected, a second phase of more thorough testing is required. Such inspections may potentially cost tens of thousands of dollars for certain buildings. The State will provide more detailed information regarding inspection criteria before the inspection deadline occurs as the Florida Building Commission is required to review the new inspection requirements and make recommendations to the Governor and legislature by the end of this year. Additionally, on or before January 1, 2023, condominium associations must report to the Division of Florida Condominiums, Timeshares and Mobile Homes information regarding the number of buildings on the condominium property that are three (3) stories or higher and related information.
Noncompliance with the above inspection requirements may result in a determination that a building is unsafe for occupancy. Local enforcement agencies (i.e. City or County) are delegated the ability to prescribe timelines and penalties as to compliance with the milestone inspection requirements. Individual counties may adopt ordinances requiring condominium associations to schedule or commence repairs for substantial structural deterioration within a specified time after receipt of the second phase inspection report, provided that repairs commence no later than three hundred and sixty-five days after receipt of the report.
Your attorney may assist with questions concerning compliance with the new law as well as with measures which may be taken to adequately prepare for the expense of inspections and related requirements.
Our next two (2) columns will address other aspects of the new safety laws such as the requirements for reserve studies, collection of adequate reserves to fund repairs and the transparency now required of condominium associations in these areas.
Victor Berwin counsels and represents clients in a broad range of matters with an emphasis on community association/country club issues, employment agreements, and commercial, real estate, and creditors’ rights litigation. Learn more about Victor here
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