Task force to recommend condo safety solutions to avert future disasters

Writer: Joey Pellegrino
View of the Champlain Towers South, as the search and rescue teams for survivors continue on Wednesday, June 30, 2021, in Surfside, Fla., seven days after the building collapsed. (Pedro Portal/Miami Herald via AP)

Are you safe in your own home? That’s the question keeping many people up at night since the deadly condo collapse in Surfside. Only two Florida counties, Miami-Dade and Broward, require inspection of buildings 40 years after construction, but Friday will see a meeting to address the issue.

A task force assigned to assess condominium safety after the Surfside tragedy may recommend to Gov. DeSantis that those tests become statewide and occur much earlier, possibly after 20 or 30 years. DeSantis says that it’s too early to do any studies on condos around the state until they get to the bottom of what happened in Surfside, specifically. But one thing also being looked into is making it a law that residents of a condo building must be informed of what is going on with said building, meaning the results of any inspection would get relayed to them immediately, whether they’re good or bad.

“Now, that’s not to suggest that there’s a lack of maintenance or standards widespread throughout the state,” said Bill Sklar, chair of the condo investigation task force. “Indeed, probably the vast majority of condominiums are well-maintained and run well by their boards. But we can’t leave that to chance. There’s no statewide inspection requirements.”

According to the Florida Department of Business, there are over 912,000 condominium units that are over 30 years of age statewide and almost 2 million residents live in them, so this is a issue affects a large number of Floridians, and the job of this task force has just begun.

When the first reports from Surfside were released, they showed that the people who lived in Champlain Towers were asked to pay between $50 to $100,000 over a number of years for repairs, a fee many people simply can’t afford that, especially senior citizens who might be on a fixed income. The task force has a suggestion.

“We’re looking at ways [in which] that could be perhaps financed by an association, perhaps the possibility of infrastructure, government-backed loans or government-guaranteed loans,” Sklar said. “Where an individual faced with such an assessment can qualify on an income or means test for such a loan on a long term, 20- or 30-year basis.”

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