New bills proposed to improve Florida’s condominium safety, prevent future disasters

This aerial photo shows part of the 12-story oceanfront Champlain Towers South Condo that collapsed early Thursday, June 24, 2021 in Surfside, Fla. (Amy Beth Bennett /South Florida Sun-Sentinel via AP)

In the wake of 2021’s tragedy in Surfside, when 98 people died in a condominium collapse, a Floridian group is working to pass new laws that would change how frequently buildings are inspected and make sure there is money to make repairs when needed.

Supporters of Senate Bill 1702 say they just want to make sure tragedies like the collapse of Champlain Towers in Surfside never happen again. One of those supporters, Martin Langesfeld, lost his sister and brother-in-law that day and says he wants more restrictions when it comes to inspections at high-rise condominiums.

The bill would require milestone inspections for multi-family buildings taller than three stories. It would also require these buildings to be inspected 30 years after they are built and then every 10 years after that. Leaders with the Community Associations Institute are advocating for this bill and say it will help to ensure there are no more catastrophes on the scale of Surfside.

“It doesn’t matter how many years it takes for the inspection, there has to be a common ground and things need to get stricter,” Langesfeld said.

“What needs to happen is these buildings need to be inspected,” said Dawn Bauman, executive director of the Foundation for Community Association Research. “And these buildings need to be inspected in a timely period of time and they need to make sure that there’s funding available for regular maintenance.”

While they could not say for sure whether or not this bill would have prevented the Surfside collapse if it had been in place in 2021, these supporters do say this bill is a step in the right direction. Leaders with CAI say that without a reserve fund, some condos are forced to put maintenance projects on hold, even when they are critically important.

This is why they’re pushing for Senate Bill 7042 to be passed. It would give condo boards the authority to make investments for required maintenance projects.

“[There] has to be the ability to have, whether it be a line of credit, or an approved special assessment… or some funding source in place to ensure that the necessary projects can be funded at a time when they need to be funded,” said Michael Bender, chair of the Florida Legislative Action Committee of CAI.

“Forcing the maintenance to be done on time, forcing the reserve study to identify what needs to be fixed when and repaired when and replaced is super important for the safety of these buildings,” Bauman said.

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