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Condo law, insurance, oversight, engineering. Surfside collapse could change a lot

Joey Flechas and Douglas Hanks, Miami Herald on

Published in News & Features

“We’re a pretty small town. With the number of buildings we want to inspect quickly to see if there are any apparent dangers that need to be addressed, we need more inspectors,” James McGuiness, head of Surfside’s Building Department, said in a July 12 interview. “The city of Miami is sending two building inspectors. Things are looking up.”

At County Hall, there’s legislation pending that would strip some independence from municipal building departments to handle potential structural emergencies themselves.

Legislation by Commissioner Danielle Cohen Higgins, who represents parts of South Miami-Dade, would require private inspectors working within city limits to notify the county’s building department if they found any structural issues severe enough to risk building failure.

“These type of things have to come to the county,” Cohen Higgns said. “Small towns may not have the resources to handle it.””

Prior to the collapse, the city of Miami beefed up its unsafe structures division by adding more inspectors, and it intends to add more in the upcoming fiscal year. Commissioners might soon consider creating a stricter requirement for what kind of engineer can inspect older buildings inside city limits.

Several cities sent their buildings inspectors on enforcement blitzes immediately after the Surfside collapse, resulting in the processing of a range of violations and the evacuation of some buildings.


Surfside has already asked owners of buildings 30 years or older that are at least three stories tall for their recertifications. Administrators, calling it an “acceleration” of the program, asked owners to submit “actions plans” within 30 days.


To own a condominium is to own property under a unique set of Florida laws that dictate what should and should not happen in a building where multiple owners share walls, floors and ceilings. Proposals to reform condo law are nothing new, but the Surfside disaster is spurring an urgent review of regulations that could underscore future legislative changes.

Those state laws are already under a review by a group of experts assembled by the Florida Bar in the weeks since the collapse. The task force will review, among other topics, how condominium boards operate and manage reserve funds for maintenance and repair costs. Another area to examine: How often condominium buildings need to undergo inspections.


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