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Commissioner Steve Geller, also a former state Senator, said he hopes the pressure won’t mean the safety law gets repealed, but perhaps the 2024 deadline should be relaxed.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