New Condominium Structural Safety Provisions in Florida
In early 2022, Senate Bill 4-D, a legislative response to the 2021 Surfside collapse, was signed into law. The bill includes provisions that result in significant changes to Florida Statutes Chapters 553, 718, 719 and 720.
The spirit of the regulations is to improve the life safety of buildings managed by Condominium Associations (COAs) in the state of Florida. The requirements are designed to keep Florida condominiums safe to inhabit and ensure that COAs reserve the funds necessary to conduct regular inspections and make necessary repairs.
Mandatory Structural Inspections
Florida Statute now requires that a Milestone Structural Inspection is conducted on all Florida condominiums at specific intervals in a building’s timeline. A Milestone Structural Inspection (MSI) is a physical investigation of a building with a view to determining whether the building is safe enough to be inhabited. The MSI Report, once completed, becomes an official document of record for the COA and must, by statute, be retained by the COA for 15 years. Tenant’s and prospective buyers have the right to inspect the report or a summary of the report, respectively.
The new regulations require that COAs hire licensed engineers or licensed architects to carry out MSIs as follows:
- For every building, three stories high or higher an MSI must be conducted by December 31 of the building’s 30th year and then another MSI is required every 10 years.
- If a condominium building of three stories or higher is located within three miles of the coastline, an MSI must be conducted by December 31 of the building’s 25th year and then another MSI is required every 10 years.
- If a condo building is over 30 years old in 2022, an MSI for that building must be completed before December 31, 2024.
Finally, COAs bear the financial costs of and are financially responsible for the MSIs on all buildings on their property. An Officer or Directors willing failure to conduct on MSI as necessary and required by law is a breach of their fiduciary duties.
Mandatory Reserve Requirements
Every COA is required to conduct a Structural Integrity Reserve Study every 10 years. The first Structural Integrity Reserve Study must be completed before December 31, 2024. Structural Integrity Reserve Studies consist of a review of a COA’s reserve funds allocated for future improvements and repairs of the common areas managed by the association. To conduct a Structural Integrity Reserve Study, a licensed engineer or licensed architect makes a physical inspection of the common areas to analyze specific items that are outlined in statute.
Prior to the new regulations, COAs were able to waive (that is, underfund or simply refuse to fund) their financial reserves. However, the new regulations require that, beginning on December 31, 2024, every association must fund its reserves for all items included in the Structural Integrity Reserve Study for the buildings managed by that association. Associations must use all principle and interest in the reserve account only for their intended purposes.
“The spirit of the regulations is to improve the life safety of COA-managed buildings in the state of Florida.”
All Structural Integrity Reserve Studies, like MSI Reports, constitute official documents of record of the COA and must, per statute, be retained by an association for 15 years. Tenant’s and prospective buyers have the right to inspect these records.
While each COA generally has until 2024 to comply with the majority of the new regulations, all COAs must file information about its buildings with the Division of Florida Condominiums, Timeshares, and Mobile Homes on or before January 1, 2023. This information includes:
- The addresses of all buildings managed by the COA.
- The Florida counties in which all such buildings are located.
- The number of buildings on the condominium property that are three stories or higher in height.
- The total number of units in all such buildings.
The Importance of an Attorney
These changes to the Florida Statutes govern the way condo associations manage funds and inspect their buildings’ integrity. Because the costs associated with maintaining a larger amount of reserves and conducting inspections can be high, it is likely that condo owners across the board will see hikes in monthly association dues. Some associations may be tempted to “throw in the towel” and not comply with these new regulations, risking fines and other penalties.
It is important that Florida COAs consult with an experienced Florida HOA attorney before making decisions that potentially contravene these new regulations. There may be viable alternatives that avoid the legal jeopardy that can come from non-compliance.
South Florida Law
As South Florida’s go-to law firm for HOA and COA-related matters, South Florida Law PLLC has the resources and experience to reduce and manage the liability of associations through proactive measures. Should disputes or security incidents occur, we represent both associations and members of associations, helping our clients by defending their rights according to Federal law, Florida Statute, local regulations and the governing documents of their community.
With offices in Hallandale Beach and Hollywood in Broward County and Coral Gables in Miami-Dade County we serve all of South Florida, home to one of the nation’s highest concentrations of communities run by associations.
If your COA is facing difficulty complying with the new requirements related to inspections and reserves, reach out to us via our contact form or by calling (954) 900-8885.