It was just over a year ago that 98 lives were tragically lost when the Champlain Towers South condominium complex collapsed in Surfside, Florida, becoming one of the deadliest residential building collapses in United States history. While general legislation was stalled during the official legislative session, legislation regarding the collapse was passed in a special session. During the third special session of the year, Florida Legislators passed Senate Bill 4-D, which was subsequently signed into law by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis on May 26, 2022. The new law requires significant changes to the recertification process for condominiums; modifies Florida Statutes Chapters 553, 718, 719 and 720; and establishes new reserve rules. In this article we will cover what the law entails and the changes for both condominium associations and residents alike.
One of the main changes that the law makes is that there are new requirements in the recertification process of condominiums. The law now requires statewide recertification of condominiums that are over three stories tall. Recertification will be required after 30 years, or 25 years if the building is within three (3) miles of the coast, and every ten (10) years thereafter. At the time of the Surfside collapse, only two of Florida’s 67 counties, Miami-Dade and Broward, had condominium recertification programs. At the time of its collapse, the Champlain Towers South Condominium Complex was 40 years old and was actively undergoing the 40-year-recertification process required by Miami-Dade.
This new legislation will have a significant impact on existing units in the state of Florida. According to a legislative analysis conducted earlier this year, there are more than 1.5 million condominium units in Florida that are operated by nearly 28,000 associations. Of those units, over 912,000 are older than 30 years and are home to more than 2 million residents. This means that hundreds of thousands of units that were not previously technically required to be reinspected and recertified by a licensed architect or engineer years after being built and occupied will now be subject to the recertification requirement. While there is not a standard cost for recertification, the three main factors that influence the overall price are: the size of the building (i.e. number and size of individual units), complexity of the structure, and accessibility.
An engineer will provide you with a proposal once they have a good understanding of your condominium building. Some will provide a price per unit. These can range from as little as $10 per door to as much as $300 per door (depending on a multitude of factors). Other engineers provide a price based on square footage. Some even take into consideration the location of the condominium and its age. Due to the variety of factors that may go into the total price, it is important to receive and consider multiple quotes.
While some of the law’s new provisions will not take full effect until the year 2024, there is a growing concern regarding a future shortage of licensed Florida architects and structural engineers qualified to recertify condominiums. As shortages tend to drive up prices, it is important to act soon so as to not have to deal with increased costs in the future, when recertification is made fully mandatory by law.
Another important aspect of the new law is the requirement for condominium associations to have enough money in their reserves to cover all repairs necessary to maintain the structural integrity (building, floors, windows, plumbing, electrical, etc.) of all buildings that are three stories or higher. This will likely come as a shock to many associations because before the new law passed in May, condo associations in Florida could choose to waive their reserves through a vote, effectively meaning they did not have to reserve any funds at all. Luckily for condominium associations, there is a grace period for current condo associations to make the necessary changes. Existing associations must meet this requirement before the year 2025. However, note that it is never too early to begin preparing to meet this requirement in the future.
Other Important Laws Impacting Condos
Some additional condominium laws that recently went into effect that you and your condominium association should be aware of are:
- SB 630 was unanimously passed and subsequently signed into law on June 16, 2021 and makes additional significant changes to existing condominium law. One of the key changes is that it prohibits condominium associations from requiring unit owners to state a purpose for accessing official records. It also establishes the right of tenants to access a copy of the Declaration, Bylaws, and Rules and Regulations. It does clarify, however, that those are the only records accessible to tenants. Additionally, the law limits the time required for keeping competitive bids in the condo association’s official records to one (1) year. Furthermore, condominium associations and management companies are now allowed to use the same legal counsel, which was previously prohibited. This is a non-exhaustive list, but you can access a copy of the official summary of the bill using this link.
- SB 56 was unanimously passed and signed into law on June 16, 2021. Under the law, condo associations must wait 45 days to foreclose a claim of lien (a legal claim to a property used as security against any amount of money or services owed to another entity) after written notice is given to the unit owner. It also introduces new requirements on how associations may deliver or change their methods of delivery for assessments and account statements. This is a non-exhaustive list, but you can access a copy of the official summary of the bill using this link.
If you are a member of a condominium association or on the Board of an association and are having concerns regarding the requirements outlined in Senate Bill 4-D or other recent condo laws and their applicability to your association, please contact The Orlando Law Group at 407-512- 4394 and schedule an appointment to speak with one of our outstanding attorneys about your concerns.