Last year’s partial collapse of a condominium building in Surfside, Florida, that tragically killed 98 people, led to a call for stricter inspection regulations. Gov. Ron DeSantis responded recently by signing a law with much tighter inspection requirements.
Under the new state law, all residential building three stories or taller must undergo a detailed structural inspection after 30 years and then every 10 years after that. Buildings within three miles of the coast — where salty ocean water can be highly corrosive to structural components — face even tougher rules. They have to be inspected after 25 years and every seven years after that.
Whenever structural damage is found, buildings are required to undergo a more thorough secondary inspection. The results of the inspections have to be made available to unit owners and local government officials.
In addition to the inspection rules, the new law requires condominium associations to evaluate their reserve funds every 10 years to make sure they have enough cash to cover the cost of major repairs.
The new law, which is due to go into effect in January 2025, could lead to a substantial increase in condo fees and special assessments. Depending on the size of a building, professional engineering inspections can cost tens of thousands of dollars. And buildings that have not maintained sufficient reserves could face large special assessments to cover the cost of repairs identified by structural engineers and/or to bring underfunded reserves into compliance.
With sea level rise and stronger tropical storms adding stress to buildings located near the coast, real estate owners and buyers in Florida should be encouraged that the new law will improve safety and reduce the odds of another Surfside-like collapse. But, for budgeting purposes, they need to be aware of a building’s age, inspection status, potential repair issues, and reserves status. Condo board members, meeting minutes and financials should provide a clear picture of a building’s situation.
Other states may have inspection and reserves requirements similar to Florida’s that need to be considered when owners and buyers are involved in coastal real estate located within their borders.