The task force makes recommendations after a condo collapses


Aerial photo of the Champlain Towers South Condo after a building wing collapsed, June 24, 2021, Surfside, Florida.

Amy Beth Bennett / South Florida Sun-Sentinel via AP

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) – Florida lawmakers should revise state condominium laws following the Surfside building collapse that killed 98 people to conduct inspections, ensuring proper reserves be in place to make major security repairs and other issues, according to a balance of power task prepared by a section of the Florida Bar.

The Real Property, Estates and Trusts Law Section of the Bar formed the working group of lawyers specializing in condominium and association law. The goal was not to investigate or find blame for the collapse of the 12-story oceanfront Champlain Towers South condominium, but rather to recommend ways to prevent future disasters.

“The lack of uniform maintenance standards or protocols, and the unguided discretion given to boards of directors to determine when, how and if life safety inspections should be performed, requires legislative intervention,” said concluded the 179-page report released earlier this year. the week.

The Champlain Towers were 40 years old and in need of major repairs when they collapsed on June 24. This prompted authorities to consider the need to ensure that other aging structures are safe. The task force said that 912,376 condo units in Florida housing more than 2 million people are at least 30 years old, including more than 105,000 over 50 years old and nearly 328,000 built between 40 and 50 years ago. years.

Overall, Florida has more than 1.5 million condominium units operated by 27,599 condominium associations, according to the report.

Among the recommendations, association councils can be given the right to do special assessments for major repairs to protect the safety of residents without a full association vote. It also requires associations to set aside reserves for projects recommended by engineers so that they can pay for repairs. These would be in addition to the accounts in place for routine maintenance.

Although the report states that the vast majority of condominium associations operate in a reasonably safe manner, there needs to be more consistency with inspections and the information provided therein needs to be made available to residents.

“Unit owners and boards of directors may also resist such maintenance because of the cost, lack of reserves, disruption and inconvenience,” the report says.

The report also recommends allowing condominium boards to borrow money to pay for life safety repairs so that the cost can be spread over several years.

Local governments should also have a higher level of accountability for inspection reports, including stripping them of sovereign immunity protections, which limit civil claims against government agencies to $ 200,000.

“Condominium residents should have the right to rely on inspections and reports made by or on behalf of local governments, and local governments should not be able to shirk responsibility for the content and conclusion of inspection reports. buildings, ”he said.

Current law requires associations and unit owners to bring civil suits against developers for design and construction defects. These limitations should be lifted, according to the report.

The state division that oversees condominium education and compliance is largely funded by a fee-based trust fund of $ 4 per unit. The task force recommends that the legislature not be able to “sweep” the trust fund for other state budgetary purposes.

It also recommends that 30% of the trust fund be used to educate association boards and residents on obligations to carry out repairs to keep buildings safe.

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