In 2022, Florida’s legislation enacted a new law that governs condominiums with three or more floors: Florida’s Senate Bill 4-D or the Florida Condominium Safety Act. Find out why the bill was signed into law, and what it means for you as a condominium owner and your Florida condo management company.
What Is the Florida Condominium Safety Bill?
The Florida Condominium Safety Bill requires the associations of condominiums that meet certain criteria to recertify to ensure the property is safe for continued use. To satisfy this, they must perform Milestone Structural Inspections of the property. Furthermore, the bill states that condominium associations must have reserve funds to pay for repairs.
Why Was the Florida Condominium Safety Act Passed?
Senate Bill 4-D was a response to the collapse of the 12-story Surfside condominium, an awful event that claimed 98 lives in 2021. It was found that the cause of the Champlain Towers South condominium collapse was the long-term deterioration of its structure, due to water damage and corrosion. The new bill is an amendment of Chapters 553, 718, 719, and 720 of the Florida Statutes.
What Are Milestone Structural Inspections?
One of the main items discussed in Senate Bill 4-D is the Milestone Structural Inspection or MSI. A Milestone Structural Inspection is a type of inspection wherein the structure is meticulously examined to ascertain its safety. This inspection can only be carried out by a licensed architect or engineer.
When a condominium or cooperative building turns 30 years old from the time it gets its certificate of occupancy, it must conduct an MSI by December 31 of that year. So, if a condominium’s certificate of occupancy dates back to 1992, that means the inspection must be completed by December 31, 2024. However, if a condominium is three floors tall or is 3 miles from the coastline, it must be inspected by December 31 of the year it turns 25 years old. After that, the MSI must be done every 10 years.
It’s worth mentioning that milestone inspections must be done for each building in the condominium community. If a condo community has three towers, that means there must be three separate inspections.
Who Pays for Milestone Structural Inspections?
All costs incurred to carry out a Milestone Structural Inspection will be borne by the condominium owners’ association (COA). That’s precisely why Senate Bill 4-D states that associations must maintain a reserve fund (more on that later).
After the inspection, the inspector will prepare a report for the association. This report must be maintained as part of the association’s official records for 15 years. Anyone who owns or rents a unit within the condominium can read the report, and unit buyers have the right to review the report so they can decide whether or not to buy.
Failure to conduct the inspection will be considered a breach of fiduciary duty, so make sure to mark when they need to be completed on your calendar. A Florida condo management company can also help you monitor when milestone inspections need to be performed.
What Happens During Milestone Structural Inspections?
The Milestone Structural Inspection has two main phases. In Phase 1, the inspector examines the habitable and non-habitable parts of the building. If they don’t find signs of significant structural issues that could pose a risk to the property’s integrity, then they don’t need to proceed to Phase 2.
If Phase 2 is necessary, the inspector can choose to conduct either a destructive or non-destructive test. In any case, the inspection in Phase 2 is more extensive than in Phase 1 and is meant to determine if the property is structurally sound. The inspector’s goal is to suggest solutions to address the damaged areas of the property.
Senate Bill 4-D stipulates that condominium associations must start structural repairs within 365 days of the inspection report. Furthermore, they must submit proof that they’ve commenced and completed repairs to the local government.
What Is the Structural Integrity Reserves Study?
The Florida Condominium Safety Act also states that associations must conduct the “structural integrity reserve study” or SIRS. The SIRS assesses the association’s reserve funds to find out if it’s sufficient for future repairs and replacements.
It involves a visual examination of the condo’s common spaces to ensure that these areas are accounted for in the reserve fund. The SIRS can only be carried out by a licensed architect or engineer, who will carefully check components including the roof, fire protection systems, electrical systems, load-bearing walls, etc.
Similar to the Milestone Structural Inspection, the SIRS is considered an official record and therefore, must be stored by the association for 15 years.
Associations can’t underfund or refuse to fund their reserves for items that are included in the SIRS. In other words, if the inspector states in the SIRS that a specific part of the condo needs to be replaced every year, you have to do as instructed. Furthermore, condo unit owners can’t opt out of funding the reserve. If the association decides to increase its dues to satisfy the SIRS, condo unit owners must comply.
What Does This Law Mean for You?
So, what are the Florida Condominium Safety Act implications for condominium owners? First, even if your condominium management company conducts routine inspections, you must still complete the Milestone Structural Inspection report. Since your inspection report can’t be a substitute for the MSI report, so you must seek a licensed professional who can conduct this for you.
As for the SIRS, your association will need to think of ways to pay for inspections and fund its reserve according to the SIRS’ findings. Also, don’t be surprised if you suddenly deal with disgruntled condo tenants and owners. To ensure sufficient funds, your condo association will have to increase its dues – this, unfortunately, won’t sit well with most tenants, and as a result, they will be less inclined to renew.
Raising the association dues can be tricky, as not all homeowners will understand why there’s a need to do so. It can also put a strain on the relationship between board members (who are merely residents who’ve volunteered) and their neighbors. That’s why it pays to partner with a Florida condominium management company – they’ll be the impartial party that collects the dues for you.
To ensure complete compliance with the Florida Condominium Safety Act, partner with a Florida condo management firm that stays up-to-date with all local and statewide laws. Not only will we provide day-to-day management of your condominium – including its tenants and common areas – but we’ll also assist your condo association in any way we can.
For more information, call (561) 944 – 2992 or complete our contact form.