New Condo Building Safety Law
By: John Townsend
Legal Update Northwest Florida -The condo law that went into effect in May 2022 regarding milestone inspections is starting to impact our local condo community and will continue to do so for several years. We break down what the law means for condo owners and associations below.
Florida’s Senate Bill SB 4-D (the “Surfside Legislation” or Condo Building Safety Law) now makes it mandatory for all Florida condominium and cooperative buildings, three stories or higher, to undergo structural milestone inspections. The bill also requires the submission of specific building reporting information to the Division of Florida Condominiums, Timeshares, and Mobile Homes and no longer allows for the waiver or reduction in the funding of reserves.
You may be wondering why the government enacted this new legislation. In light of the tragic Surfside Condominium building collapse in June 2021, Florida legislators have passed this new law that modifies certain rights and duties of condo associations across the State of Florida. Its primary focus is on preventative maintenance, inspections, and maintaining reserve funds.
Condominium associations have the responsibility of maintaining the common areas of the condominium complex. The funds for the regular daily, monthly, or yearly maintenance are collected by the condo association from the condo unit owners as part of their regular assessments. Under previous legislation, condo associations can have reserves for larger ticket items ($10,000+) that are not part of the daily maintenance of the property, such as repainting the building exterior or replacing a roof. If an association does not have the necessary reserve funds and an issue arises, the association can use a special assessment to collect from the unit owners in full, or the association can choose to take a loan out to pay for the repairs. But with the new law, there are restrictions to waiving reserve funds. The new legislation states that condominium associations must have the funds to pay for these large maintenance items in reserve and the reserves can no longer be waived.
Every condo three stories or higher will have milestone inspections, and the amount of time before their initial inspection depends on how far they are from the coastline. If the condo is within three miles of the coastline, then its initial inspection will be when the condo is 25 years old, but if the condo is further than three miles from the coastline, then its initial inspection will be when the condo is 30 years old. After the initial inspection, the condos will be inspected again every 10 years after that. If nothing is found during the inspection, then the condo is good for another 10 years. If there are findings during the inspection, then the association is required to get a follow-up study by an engineer and send a report to the owners and the local building departments in their city or county. If the report shows repairs are needed, especially structural repairs, then the reserves can no longer be waived and the repairs will need to be funded and completed by a specific date.
This new law will continue to affect condo owners and those that would like to own a condo in the future.