NOTE: Our Client Portal is Currently Undergoing Maintenance

Subscribe by Email

Articles Posted in Life safety issues

The changes that the Florida legislature enacted during its special session earlier this year call for new requirements for structural inspections for buildings that are three stories or higher. They also create new reporting requirements for condominium associations and cooperatives, and call for the enhanced funding of reserves for major structural repairs.

The process established under the new law begins with the reporting of some basic information for all affected buildings throughout the state. The division that oversees condominiums and cooperatives under the state’s Department of Business and Professional Regulation has been charged with establishing the reporting system and collecting the information.

dbprlogo-300x170The state agency has now officially begun these efforts with its new Building Reporting Form, which can be submitted online and is now available at www.myfloridalicense.com/DBPR/condos-timeshares-mobile-homes/building-report/.

The requested information on the form is very basic, so associations will not have much difficulty with this initial step. It includes the number of buildings on the property that are three stories or more in height, the number of units in such buildings, the addresses of all such buildings, and the counties in which they are located. The form must be submitted by Jan. 1, 2023.

Continue reading

A recent article in the Palm Beach Post chronicled the early signs of the financial strains that Florida condominium associations are beginning to experience. Unfortunately, these early issues involving increased insurance costs represent just the beginning, and things are indeed expected to get worse in the months and years to come.

The article discusses how the 51-year-old Portofino South Condominium in West Palm Beach (pictured below) received a renewal quote from its insurer with an 82 percent increase over the prior year. It had expected an increase of around 25 percent, which was what it got for 2021, so the board of directors had to call a special meeting to increase the association’s annual budget and hike up its monthly dues for its owners.

Mary McSwain, who bought her one-bedroom unit in January, told the Post’s Kimberly Miller that her dues are going from $914 a month to $1,347.

“And it’s likely to get more expensive for owners under the new condo law approved during a special legislative session,” the article reminds readers.

pfino-south-300x200Indeed, while most of those safety provisions do not become effective until 2024, the law will require significant new inspection and maintenance measures on older condos three stories or higher, as well as dedicated reserves to pay for structural repairs.

For the owners at Portofino, the news is even worse. State law now requires it to install a new fire-sprinkler system by Jan. 1, 2024, and that is expected to cost its unit owners more than $7 million.

Continue reading

Gary-Mars-2021-2-200x300For the second time in the last several months, firm shareholder Gary M. Mars authored an op-ed editorial column in the Miami Herald on a vital new piece of federal legislation to provide for condo-safety financing options for condominium associations and their unit owners.  Gary’s new article, which is featured in today’s op-ed Opinion page of the Herald, discusses what he calls a perfect storm of rising insurance, inspections, repairs and reserves expenses that could jeopardize the finances of many South Florida condominium associations and force some owners to either sell or face the prospect of foreclosure.  It reads:

. . . A recent Palm Beach Post article chronicled how the Portofino South Condominium in West Palm Beach received an 82% increase from its insurance carrier, while its directors and residents had expected an increase of about 25%, which the community got in 2021.

Mary McSwain, 67, who bought her one-bedroom unit in January, said her monthly dues are going from $914 to $1,347.

GMars-Herald-op-ed-8-2-22-for-blog-137x300For most communities, increased insurance costs will come first, but increases created by the provisions of the state (and some county) mandates for structural inspections, repairs and reserve funding are sure to follow. Those provisions do not start until 2024 for the affected buildings, but association boards would be well advised to begin securing and vetting offers from qualified professionals for their long-term budgetary planning.

A federal proposal introduced recently by Florida U.S. Reps. Charlie Crist and Debbie Wasserman Schultz, together with another bill from the same lawmakers introduced in April, could provide relief for communities in immediate need of substantial repairs and renovations. The new Rapid Financing for Critical Condo Repairs Act of 2022 would let the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Federal Housing Administration insure condominium association building rehabilitation loans issued by private lenders.

Continue reading

RobertoBlanch_8016-200x300The firm’s latest Real Estate Counselor column in today’s Miami Herald is authored by Roberto C. Blanch and titled “Lawmakers Deliver Huge Milestone in Evolution of Florida’s Condo Laws.”  The article focuses on the state legislature’s passage of the most far-reaching condominium safety reforms in Florida since Hurricane Andrew.  It reads:

. . . The changes include many of the proposals from engineering, legal and community association industry task forces aimed at studying the perceived shortcomings that led to the Surfside catastrophe. They require inspections for buildings three stories or higher 30 years after completion and every 10 years thereafter. Buildings within three miles of the coast must be inspected at 25 years, then every 10 years. The first buildings impacted are slated to be those constructed before July 1, 1992, as they must complete their first structural inspections prior to Dec. 31, 2024.

The inspections are aimed at identifying any substantial structural deterioration that may present life-safety dangers, and whether remedial or preventive repairs are recommended. RBlanch-Herald-clip-for-blog-6-5-22-99x300The reports on their findings will be required to be distributed to association unit owners, prospective buyers and local building departments, which may then require the start of repairs within specified timeframes if substantial deficiencies are identified.

Associations will also be required to conduct reserve studies every 10 years for the funding of structural repairs and, most important, beginning by 2025 they will no longer be allowed to waive funding of many reserve components.

Continue reading

The tragic collapse of Champlain South Tower has prompted various changes state-wide in regards to condominium safety-reforms. Although just last week Florida passed its first ever state-wide condominium safety reform bill, on June 1, 2022 Miami-Dade County’s Board of County Commissioners released an ordinance establishing even more stringent procedures for the recertification process. The following are key takeaways:

  • All buildings (except single-family homes, duplexes, and structures housing fewer than 10 people) must undergo recertification upon reaching 30 years of age and every 10 years thereafter.
  • Local jurisdictions will provide buildings with a courtesy notice one and two years prior to their recertification anniversary.
  • Buildings will also receive a reminder 90 days before the report submission due date of recertification deadline.
  • The same notice schedule applies for the 10-year incremental recertifications.

shutterstock_783519631-300x200Buildings and structures built between 1983-1992 must undergo recertification for their 30-year period on or before March 31, 2024. They are not subject to the courtesy notification requirement.

  • Buildings built between 1983-1986 are exempt from the 30-year recertification requirement, only if a 40-year recertification report for the building would be otherwise due before March 31, 2024, and such report is timely submitted.
  • Within 90 days of the Notice of Required Inspection, a written report must be submitted to a building official certifying that the building is both structurally and electrically safe for continued occupancy. Submission of a report will also be deemed timely if submitted any time between two (2) years before the building’s recertification anniversary.

Continue reading

Condominium safety reforms were very much in the spotlight during this year’s regular session following the unforgettable tragedy in Surfside, Florida. Though legislators could not agree on legislation pertaining to safety reforms during the regular session, they successfully did so during a special session. In a surprising move, Senate Bill 4-D unanimously passed in both the House and Senate and was recently signed into law by the Governor. The following are the key takeaways from the 88-page bill:

The “Milestone Inspection”

  • Florida has now imposed a state-wide structural inspection program for condominium and cooperative associations that are three (3) stories or more in height defined as a “milestone inspection.”
  • Community association managers or management companies contractually hired by a condominium association that is subject to this inspection must comply with this section as directed by the board.
  • Milestone inspections must be performed by December 31 of the year in which the building reaches 30 years in age, based on the issue date of the building’s certificate of occupancy, and every 10 years thereafter. Buildings located within 3 miles of the coastline must perform a milestone inspection by December 31 of the year in which they reach 25 years in age, and every 10 years thereafter.  Buildings with a certificate of occupancy that was issued on or before July 1, 1992 must have the initial milestone inspection performed before December 31, 2024.
  • Condominium and cooperative associations are responsible for the scheduling and costs associated with the milestone inspection.
  • Milestone inspection means a structural inspection of a building’s load-bearing walls and primary structural members/systems.
  • Milestone inspections must be performed by a Florida licensed engineer/architect who must attest to the life safety and adequacy of structural components of the building. To the extent that it’s reasonably possible, the inspection must determine the general structural condition of the building as it affects the safety of building, such as necessary maintenance, repairs and replacements of structural components.
  • “Substantial structural deterioration” is described as substantial structural distress that negatively affects the building’s general structural condition and integrity.

fla-legislature-300x198Milestone inspections will consist of two phases:

    • Phase one — Visual examination of habitable/nonhabitable areas of building. If there are no signs of structural deterioration found, phase two is not required.
    • Phase two — If substantial deterioration is found during phase one, phase two may involve destructive or nondestructive testing at the inspector’s discretion. This additional inspection may be as extensive or limited as necessary to fully assess areas of distress.
    • Architect/engineer who performed inspections must submit a sealed copy of the inspection report and findings to both the association and appropriate local building official
  • Local enforcement agencies will provide buildings required to comply with this law notice of required inspection by certified mail.
  • Upon receiving notice, condominium/cooperative associations will have 180 days to complete phase one of the inspection.

Continue reading

RobertoBlanch_8016-200x300Just two days after his insights were featured in the Miami Herald‘s initial article on the Florida legislature’s proposed new condominium-safety reforms, Roberto Blanch‘s input on the changes that unanimously passed in both the House and Senate on the state’s condominium associations and owners were prominently featured in the newspaper’s follow up report on today’s front page.  The article, which is headlined “‘A Major Move Forward in Safety.’ A Look at How Condo Reforms Will Work,” focuses on the new requirements for condominiums to conduct regular building inspections and build sufficient cash reserves to cover structural maintenance and repairs.  The article reads:

. . . The changes are laid out in a set of amendments to Florida’s condo law approved by the state House and Senate on Tuesday and Wednesday. In a surprise, the Legislature acted swiftly this week during a special session designed to address the home-insurance crisis after coming under substantial public pressure for doing nothing to shore up condo inspections and regulations  following the Surfside tragedy, which claimed 98 lives.

RBlanch-Herald-clip-for-blog-5-27-22-281x300The reform law generally hews to detailed findings and recommendations issued after Surfside by public-interest groups that include the Florida Bar, the Miami-Dade County Grand Jury, a consortium of Florida professional engineer associations, and the Community Associations Institute, a national organization that represents thousands of associations, managers and residents.

The reforms had broad but not uniform support from principal sectors of the condo industry, including association representatives, condo lawyers and real estate brokers.  Together, backers say, the reforms should markedly boost confidence in the safety of  Florida’s condos.

Continue reading

RobertoBlanch_8016-200x300The firm’s Roberto Blanch was the first independent expert source quoted in a report in today’s Miami Herald on a new bill filed yesterday during Florida’s legislative special session on home insurance that appears to be on track to be the most significant overhaul of the state’s condominium laws in decades. It was passed by the full Senate yesterday and is poised to be approved by the House today.

The proposed measures, which are in direct response to the horrific Champlain Towers tragedy that claimed 98 lives, include statewide inspections for aging condominium buildings and requirements for condo associations to hold money in reserves to pay for repairs. The bill also requires developers of new buildings to fund reserves, and it imposes legal liabilities on board members who ignore inspection requirements.

The Miami Herald article, which appears under the headline “Legislature Reaches Deal on Condos,” reads:

. . . [The bill] would require condominium associations to conduct reserve studies every decade to make sure they have the resources to finance needed structural repairs. RBlanch-Herald-clip-for-blog-5-25-22-300x192Starting in 2025, they would be barred from waiving a requirement that they put money in reserves to make structural repairs, although they could continue to waive collecting reserve funds for other improvements.

There are hundreds of condo buildings in South Florida and more across the state that would need to ramp up funding quickly if the bill passes, said Roberto Blanch, a Miami-based condo attorney for Siegfried Rivera.

“That is very likely going to impart upon [condo associations] a heavy financial burden,” Blanch said. “It’s kind of like quitting smoking cold turkey. There’s not going to be any gradual step-down for these folks. That could, in some buildings, become a very tough pill to swallow.”

Continue reading

Gary-Mars-2021-2-200x300The firm’s Gary M. Mars was the first South Florida community association attorney to weigh in on the recently proposed SAFER in Condos Act in a major local media outlet with his article in today’s op-ed page of the Miami Herald.  The article, which is titled “After Surfside, Federal Condo-Safety Legislation Deserves Bi-Partisan Support,” focuses on the SAFER in Condos Act that was recently introduced in the U.S. Congress by Florida representatives.  It notes that questions regarding condominium safety have been in the spotlight since the horrific Champlain Towers tragedy that claimed 98 lives, and changes failed to pass in the state legislature but have been enacted at the federal level from lenders and also at the local level from counties and municipalities.  Gary’s article reads:

. . . Part of the reason the state legislature could not agree on a set of reforms was because the new funding requirements for structural repairs would have been too much for the unit owners of many condominium communities to bear. Plus, financing options for both condominium associations and their unit owners for such extremely costly property restorations were getting worse by the day, as interest rates have been on the rise and are predicted to continue climbing.

Herald-clip-for-blog-5-3-22-462x1024For a problem of this magnitude and national scope, only the federal government has the capability and resources to truly make an impact.  Its first effort at addressing it was proposed on April 18 by U.S. Reps. Charlie Crist (D-St. Petersburg) and Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Broward, Miami-Dade) in the form of the Securing Access to Finance Exterior Repairs (SAFER) in Condos Act of 2022.  The legislation would allow condominium owners to finance critical building repairs with loans backed by the Federal Housing Administration (FHA). Unit owners would be able to combine a special assessment from their association for structural repairs with their existing mortgage debt into a new, 30-year loan insured under the FHA home rehabilitation program.

For those who do not have a mortgage or would prefer to leave it as is and continue to pay it off, the legislation also grants owners access to the FHA Property Improvement Program to finance such an assessment over a 20-year term.

Continue reading

Florida’s legislature has received very poor marks for its failure to pass any condominium-safety reforms after the horrific Champlain Towers tragedy.  Many condominium residents and community association attorneys expected the state’s lawmakers would strike a deal on a bill to revamp Florida’s existing condo regulations by requiring periodic inspections of buildings.

Pundits and newspaper columnists are lamenting the fact that the two chambers ultimately could not agree on whether to require condominium associations to maintain financial reserves for major structural maintenance and repairs.  Given the horrific tragedy that claimed 98 lives, not-to-mention the significant number of aging buildings across the state with potential structural deficiencies, it is no surprise that there has been an outcry after the legislature failed to act.

Taking into consideration that this year’s legislative session began just over six months after the collapse, the legislature’s inability to establish mandatory safety reforms and require specific funding conditions for condominiums throughout the state was actually not very surprising.  Florida-legislature2-300x169The issues of high-rise structural inspections, condominium association financial reserves, and mandatory fire sprinklers have flummoxed lawmakers in Florida and other states for decades.

Florida’s legislators should now take the time to work through the difficult details of condominium high-rise safety reforms during the remainder of the year and the pre-session legislative meetings for the 2023 session.  There may not be a one-size-fits-all solution for condominium buildings of varying heights and stages in their lifespan.

Continue reading

Contact Information