Florida condominium safety bill

What Is The Florida Condominium Safety Bill? How Important Is It?

The Florida Condominium Safety Bill has been in the works for quite some time now. But, what exactly does this bill entail? And what are the recent developments surrounding it?


What Is Florida Condominium Safety Bill? Has It Passed Into Law?

The Florida Condominium Safety Bill, also known as the Florida Condo Inspection Bill, is a bill that would require mandatory building inspections and reserve studies for certain condominiums in the Sunshine State. The proposed Senate Bill 1702, though, did not pass.

Negotiations fell through between the House of Representatives and the Florida Senate, both of which mainly fall under the control of Republicans. The talks broke down when the two sides failed to reach an agreement over how much flexibility condo owners should have when it comes to funding the reserves.

Currently, Florida law does not require older buildings to conduct safety inspections. There is also a loophole that allows condo associations to avoid funding the reserves. The proposed bill would have addressed these two problems. Whereas Rep. Daniel Perez fought for the bill, the Senate disagreed, saying condo owners would have to fulfill a hefty financial obligation.


The Surfside Condominium Collapse: A Background

The Florida condo bill was not an out-of-left-field development. In June last year, Champlain Towers South, a 12-story condominium in Surfside, Florida, partially collapsed and left 98 people dead. Several others sustained injuries. It was news that shocked Americans everywhere.

Following investigations, it was believed that the collapse of the Surfside condominium was the result of long-term degradation of the concrete structure. In 2018, the problems were pointed out but not addressed. The condo association’s insufficient reserves hindered repairs and subsequently contributed to the tragic outcome.

There are many other condominiums in Florida that were built at around the same time as Champlain Towers South. As the state currently does not require building inspections for these condos, there is no way of telling just how many more are at risk of facing the same fate. Condo owners are understandably feeling anxious as Florida lawmakers failed to pass the Florida Condominium Safety Bill.


The Problem With Funding Reserves

An association’s reserve fund is essential to the long-term stability and safety of the community’s buildings. But, several condos in Florida have exploited a loophole in the system to avoid maintaining reserves. This has resulted in severely underfunded reserves for a lot of condo associations.

Should the bill have passed, a major concern was the potential financial burden it would have on condo owners. Because the bill would have required condos to fund their reserves properly, it would mean either significantly increasing monthly dues or collecting a large special assessment. This added obligation might result in more delinquencies. It could also make housing more unaffordable, and Florida already has an affordable housing crisis.


Continued Support for Florida Condo Safety Legislation

Advocates for the Community Associations Institute (CAI) have already expressed their support for the proposed Florida bill. Family members of the victims of the Surfside condominium collapse have also been very vocal about Florida law needing to change. However, the failure to pass SB 1702 comes as a setback. Still, CAI continues to make condo safety its top priority. Advocates will continue to show support for laws that promote safety in condo associations.

Florida is not the only state that has considered adopting a bill to promote condo safety. The states of Maryland, Hawaii, and Virginia have all introduced similar legislation in one form or another.

In Virginia, the General Assembly passed a law that requires the Virginia Housing Commission to investigate condo safety issues, particularly when it comes to building inspections. Maryland, on the other hand, is contemplating funding for condominiums that require critical repairs. Finally, Hawaii is considering mandating building inspections for condominiums.


What Condominiums Should Do Moving Forward

While many would have welcomed policy intervention, it does not guarantee condo safety. With or without the bill, condominiums should take proactive steps in helping ensure the integrity of their building and the safety of their condo owners.

Florida condo billAttorneys recommend starting as early as now to implement changes. This will give condo associations more time to adjust, making it less of a financial burden in the future. Condo owners will have to adapt and understand that contributing to the reserve fund comes as a benefit to them and not a liability. Condo boards must make this clear and take the necessary steps to build a well-funded reserve.

In addition to educating residents, condo boards should schedule regular inspections of the building. Hire a professional to conduct a reserve study every couple of years or so. This will give the board an idea of the building’s condition and how much it will cost to maintain or repair its components. Make sure to have all aspects of the building inspected, including hallways, pools, plumbing, and electrical work.

It may seem like a big investment to condo owners now. But, paying an additional fee to fund the reserves is a more attractive option than having to pay an insurmountable cost in the future. Plus, a higher monthly fee certainly does not compare to the safety of condo owners.


From Here on Out

Despite not having passed, the Florida Condominium Safety Bill is proof that there is support and concern for the safety of condominiums. Lawmakers will need to balance the requirements of the bill with the financial obligation it would pose to condo owners while also taking into account the state of the housing market. While this bill may have failed, it has certainly opened the possibility for another like it.

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