Florida Condo Safety Legislation Moves Forward

By Dawn Bauman
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Protecting the millions of residents living in condominiums and other high-rise communities is the top priority of Community Associations Institute (CAI) and the CAI Florida Legislative Alliance (CAI-FLA). CAI is proud to work with Florida legislators on solutions to ensure condominium safety and financial stability of building projects.

CAI released the Condominium Safety Public Policy Report in October 2021 and began meeting with Florida legislators to share the report’s findings and recommendations to address building maintenance, structural integrity, and reserve studies and funding following the partial collapse of Champlain Towers South in Surfside, Fla., last June. CAI is pleased that several bills in the Florida Legislature have adopted the public policy positions detailed in the report.

SB 1702: Mandatory Building Inspections. This bill requires inspections for all condominium buildings that are at least 30 years-old—one of CAI’s public policy recommendations. SB 1702 has building inspection requirements consistent with the Miami Dade County Grand Jury Report on Champlain Towers South, which includes a letter from the board president that clearly demonstrates the need for building inspections.  The Champlain Towers South board president’s letter to residents notes that “observable damage such as in the garage has gotten significantly worse since the initial inspection,” and that “the concrete damage observed would begin to multiply exponentially over the year.” The bill received a favorable report in the Florida Senate Committee on Community Affairs.

SPB 7042: Community Association Building Safety. This bill requires mandatory reserve studies and authorizing a community’s governing board to adopt a special assessment or borrow money for certain reasons. CAI believes that SPB 7042 would give boards the necessary authority to make the investment for required maintenance and reserve funding for capital replacements without giving residents the option to opt-out of funding critical projects. 

CAI’s public policy positions for condominium safety are consistent with the recommendations of Florida engineers, the Florida Real Property Probate and Trust Section of the Florida Bar Association, and the Miami Dade County Grand Jury report to ensure a tragedy like the Champlain Towers South condominium collapse never happens again.

Unfortunately, there are other advocates pushing legislation under the auspices of condominium safety that will ultimately compromise homeowner builder warranty protection.

SB 736: Construction Defect Claims. CAI opposes this bill, which would shorten the time when an owner; including a community association, must take legal action against contractors for latent or hidden construction defects from 10 years to four. Typically, latent defects are ones that cannot be seen, including foundation issues or leaks behind siding and under roofs. The legislation creates expensive and burdensome requirements to comply with before starting legal proceedings and places the risk of a structural defect on homeowners.

Reports have circulated indicating potential responsible factors for the Champlain Towers South failure under investigation include water intrusion and corrosion of structural supports, corruption on the part of the building, and absence of the required amount of steel reinforcement. It is disappointing that proponents of SB 736 are trying to change the law to further compromise consumer protections and condominium safety.

CAI urges Florida legislators and Governor Ron DeSantis to pass legislation providing a framework for condominium safety and financial stability that protects the 9.6 million Floridians living in community associations, according to estimates from the Foundation for Community Association Research.

Condominium safety is a CAI priority and clearly a priority for legislators.  Forty state legislatures have convened sessions in 2022, While we are only one month into the 2022, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, New Jersey, and Virginia have legislative proposals related to condominium and/or housing cooperative building inspections.  Florida, Illinois, Maryland, and Virginia have legislative proposals related to mandatory reserve studies.

To view CAI’s Condominium Safety Public Policy Report, visit www.caionline.org/condosafety.

To view facts and figures on Florida community associations, click here.

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Dawn Bauman

Dawn Bauman, Chief Strategy Officer. As CAI’s lead advocate for federal and state legislative and regulatory affairs, Dawn works with volunteer leaders throughout the country serving on CAI legislative action and government affairs committees to advocate for strong and sensible public policy for America’s community associations.