New condo safety regs could mean financial calamity, lawmakers warned
A sad anniversary approaches. Image via AP.

Surfside
The costs of meeting the new condo safety standards are hitting — and lawmakers heard a plea for a legislative fix.

Deadlines to meet new condominium safety regulations are looming, and local leaders are warning that the deadly Surfside disaster spurred legislation that might bring on a financial calamity for many of the state’s condo residents.

As the Session approaches, the Broward County Commission met with the county’s legislative delegation and told them about the panic they are hearing regarding what it’s going to cost for condos 25 years old or older that are required to comply with the legislation (SB 4D) that was passed in a 2022 Special Session.

The first deadline to comply with the required structural integrity reserve study is Dec. 31, 2024.

“People are going to be losing their homes,” said County Commissioner Mark Bogen, representing the northwestern part of Broward. “Foreclosures are increasing. And it’s because of two things, not only the new law and reserves (requirements) but because of the increase in (property owners) insurance. So, they’re getting hit twice now … This is going to be a real crisis in this state.”

The collapse of the Champlain Towers South building in Surfside killed 98 people in 2021. Later, it was revealed that years before the disaster, an engineering report found that the building desperately needed extensive structural repairs. However, resignations, bickering among owners and confusion delayed millions of dollars’ worth in required repairs.

The legislation passed in 2022 was hailed as the first significant overhaul of the state’s condo law in two decades, affecting some 1.1 million condo units. But the full impact of the law is causing a lot of turmoil, Broward County delegation heard.

County Commissioner Hazelle Rogers, who represents inland, central Broward County, suggested that elderly residents should be able to tap into a fund.

“Right now, we need to do something, and everyone needs to be a part of the solution,” Rogers said.

The Senate Democratic Leader-designate Jason Pizzo quickly threw cold water on the idea of state help.

“There is not going to be a state bailout as it relates to condominiums at all,” he said, noting that many of his fellow lawmakers live in rural areas and don’t have any concept of condo dwelling. “Condos are still a phenomenon to many of our colleagues who believe that it’s a second or third home and don’t understand that it actually is someone’s primary home.”

Broward County Commissioner Steve Geller, also a former state Senator, said he hopes the pressure won’t mean the safety law gets repealed, but perhaps the 2024 deadline should be relaxed.

“You can’t just go from 40 years of ignoring it (condo maintenance and reserve requirements) to saying, ‘You must be in compliance in two years,’” said Geller, who represents the south-central part of the county. “So, I think the solution that makes sense is just to stretch out the period (before the deadline).”

“But you have to make sure you don’t extend it for five years … or they’ll do nothing until the fifth year.”

Anne Geggis

Anne Geggis is a South Florida journalist who began her career in Vermont and has worked at the Sun-Sentinel, the Daytona Beach News-Journal and the Gainesville Sun covering government issues, health and education. She was a member of the Sun-Sentinel team that won the 2019 Pulitzer Prize for coverage of the Parkland high school shooting. You can reach her on Twitter @AnneBoca or by emailing [email protected].


6 comments

  • rick whitaker

    October 25, 2023 at 7:07 am

    condo owners, pay up or move. no one wants to die in an unsafe building. bad and corrupt inspectors and regulators need to be terminated. florida must be the crookitist state in the country. i moved to another state.

  • George Thirrett

    October 25, 2023 at 7:27 am

    Back in the mid 1960’s thru the early 1970’s when the Florida condo boom made it clear that State regulation was needed it was never anticipated that the condos would transition to the childern of the origional owners [inheritance] and they [the origional owners children] would not actually live in their inherited condos but rent them out for the income potential which was very good rental income indeed.
    Now, given that back story, the kids of the deceased parents are now the owners and as unit owners they no longer saw a personal safety issue in funding some of the more expensive condo reserves. Yeah they had to fund such things as the roof, appearance maintainance, but such expensive things as the foundation of the building maintainance along with other expensive (but un seen items) were routinally “waived” either DIRECTLY by unit owner vote [the kids of the origional owners who dont actually live in the building] or waived INDIRECTLY by voting for condo board members who were also in favor of waiving structural building resrrves basically forever.
    This is actually what happened which endangered Surf Side and basically all older condos in Florida, The USA, and world-wide. Its a flaw in condo ownership law which could not have been anticapated back in the mid 1960’s – early 1970’s when condo law was written. Again not just in Florida but predominatly in Florida.
    The above history is not ment to point a finger of blaim at the kids and sometimes grandkids of the origional owners as being to blaim because their behavior with regards to waiving structural reserves, basically forever, was based on logical human nature decisions and not prohibited by condo law.
    I only bring this historical account public to show what the Florida legislature needs to address. And a rememder that its not just in Florida. Condos are a nationwide and a worldwide form of ownership and basic human nature of the unit owners to waive such unseen reserves is also pretty much the same no matter where the condo may be located.
    I hope this helps in understanding how Surf Side happened and what lawmakers would be tasked with to “fix” by new legislation should they choose to do so.

    • rick whitaker

      October 25, 2023 at 7:42 am

      when i leave my properties to my children and grandchildren, i leave them in the state they are. if they find out that they are not in good shape they can give them away or sell them as is. i worked as a building inspector during the 90’s. since then the codes are much stricter. i recently paid a large amount to have a property brought up to the new codes. but when i die the codes may change again so my heirs might be stuck with a bad property not worth what they thought it was worth.codes change, people lose money, that’s progress.

    • PeterH

      October 25, 2023 at 12:06 pm

      Excellent summary of the Florida condo problem! Additionally in some condo association regulations an owner who does not vote is counted as a ‘no’ vote! Ridiculous!

  • Helene Ginsburg

    October 25, 2023 at 7:35 pm

    From what I understand condo building instead is astronomical and how am I supposed to afford this large increase on my limited budget?

    • Jefe

      October 26, 2023 at 9:54 pm

      Living in a communal society is not unlike living in a house with the exception that in the house you can choose to ignore repairs and the peril is only to you. However, in a condo / co-op you must do what is good for the collective. Unfortunately, some get left behind and may need to sell their place and downsize.

Comments are closed.


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