“New Law Addresses Building Safety,” News-Press

“New Law Addresses Building Safety,” News-Press

In a surprise move, the Florida Legislature decided in its pending Special Session to take up the “Surfside legislation” that did not pass during the Regular Session earlier this year. A Bill was adopted unanimously by the Senate on May 24, 2022 by the House on May 25, and signed into law by the Governor on May 26. Here are some of the highlights.

If a condominium building is 3 or more stories in height, a “milestone inspection” is required and must be performed by a licensed architect or engineer. The inspection must be performed within 30 years from the date the Certificate of Occupancy (“CO”) was issued for the building. However, if the building is within 3 miles of the coastline, the milestone inspection must be performed within 25 years of the CO date.

The law is being phased in by requiring buildings that received a CO before July 1, 1992, to complete the first milestone inspection by December 31, 2024. The new law requires the “local enforcement agency,” presumably the local building department, to send notice to associations of the milestone inspection requirement. The association then has 180 days to perform a “Phase 1” inspection.

The Phase 1 inspection requires the architect or engineer to perform a visual inspection of the property and undertake a qualitative assessment of the building’s condition. If the Phase 1 inspection reveals no signs of structural deterioration, then a “Phase 2” inspection is not required. A Phase 2 inspection is required if structural deterioration is noted. The Phase 2 inspection may require destructive testing, at the inspector’s direction.

The engineer or architect performing either a Phase 1 or Phase 2 inspection must prepare a written inspection report. The report must be sealed and have a separate summary pointing out its material findings. The report must be given to the association and the local building official with jurisdiction over the building.

The new statute lists the minimum categories which must be addressed in the milestone inspection report, by reference to the new statutory requirement for a “structural reserve study,” discussed below. The association must distribute the milestone inspection report to all unit owners, regardless of its findings. Delivery must be by mail, personal delivery, or e-mail to those who have consented to receive electronic notice. The association must also post a copy of the inspection summary in a conspicuous place on the property. The association must post the full report on its website, if the association is legally required to have a website.

The new law gives local building officials discretion to prescribe timelines and penalties for non-compliance. County commissions may adopt ordinances establishing timelines for necessary repairs identified in a report, and such repairs must be commenced within 365 days after receiving the report.

The definition section of the statute adds the term “structural integrity reserve study” to the definitions included in the regulation of condominiums. The law requires that these reserve studies must be maintained as part of the official records of the association for 15 years, the same as for the milestone inspections discussed above. Renters are entitled to inspect the foregoing reports.

Joseph E. Adams is a Board Certified Specialist in Condominium and Planned Development Law, and an Office Managing Shareholder with Becker & Poliakoff. Please send your community association legal questions to jadams@beckerlawyers.com. Past editions of the Q&A may be viewed at floridacondohoalawblog.com.