A Florida Senate committee wasted little time Wednesday in approving a bill that would require more frequent inspections of condominiums statewide – one of the first pieces of legislation to come out of the rubble of the collapsed Champlain Towers South condo.
By a vote of 17-0, the Senate Rules Committee endorsed Senate Bill 1702, which would mandate that multifamily buildings of three stories or more undergo engineering inspections after 30 years and every 10 years thereafter. Within three miles of the coastline, condo buildings would have to be inspected 20 years after construction and every 7 years after that.
Parts of South Florida already require inspections every 40 years, but other parts of the state have no such requirements.
The bill, sponsored by state Sen. Jennifer Bradley, R-Orange Park, would also require condo associations to maintain their properties, make needed repairs and to regularly assess reserve funding available for upgrades.
The measure also would authorize condo association boards to assess owners or to borrow money without owners voting on the moves, something advocates have said is crucial to maintaining condo safety.
Critics have said high-rise condos throughout Florida have had needed repairs postponed because individual owners have been able to veto expenditures. The Champlain Towers building that collapsed last summer in the Miami Beach area, killing 98 people, needed extensive repairs and was in the midst of a long-overdue upgrade, residents have said. Investigations and lawsuits are still underway.
SB 1702 also would make inspection reports more available and part of associations official records.
At Wednesday’s committee meeting, state Sen. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg, urged colleagues to keep in mind that too many inspections could make it more difficult for condo owners and associations to obtain insurance on the properties.
“These places can be inspected to death,” Brandes said. “If an insurance carrier says it needs to be inspected every five years, that could go on and on. Insurers have skin in the game.”
Sen. Ileana Garcia, R-Miami, worried that “knee-jerk” inspection requirements and insurance restrictions could make it more difficult for some people to find living space or to afford condos in a housing market that is growing more expensive by the week.
Bradley, the bill’s sponsor, responded.
“We are so far from condos being over-inspected right now,” she said. “This bill takes a good step forward with transparency and needed inspections.”
The bill passed two other Senate committees earlier in the legislative session and it now goes to the full Senate. Similar inspection bills are pending in House committees.
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