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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

The issue of financial reserves is drawing particularly scrutiny — currently, condo associations can completely waive the requirement to maintain cash reserves to pay for needed, potentially very expensive, building improvements. In the case of Champlain Towers South, the association had just over $777,000 in reserves to pay for what was estimated by inspectors to be about $16.2 million in repairs.

The task force’s goal is to provide Gov. Ron DeSantis and legislators recommendations for any changes that could help prevent another collapse.

“We will determine if there are any changes that we would recommend through legislation or regulation that could prevent the likelihood of another Champlain Towers South tragedy,” William Sklar, an adjunct professor at the University of Miami School of Law and chair of the task force, told the Miami Herald earlier in July.

The group’s recommendations could come as early as September, when state lawmakers are scheduled to begin committee hearings in Tallahassee.

ENGINEERING REQUIREMENTS

Engineers from across Florida have launched a similar study that could generate recommendations for changes to state law.

 

Members of four major engineering associations have partnered to look at whether Florida should require mandatory reinspections of tall buildings after completion, who would be allowed to conduct those reinspections and how that work could be done without causing serious financial hardship for condominium associations.

The groups are: the Florida Engineering Society, the American Council of Engineering Companies of Florida, the Florida Structural Engineers Association and the American Society of Civil Engineers. They’re collecting data and holding weekly calls.

Some of their work will continue past advocacy for reform, namely, a bill that failed in this year’s legislative session that would create a special license for structural engineers. Advocates have said a new license, which would be obtained by passing a more rigorous test, could help prevent building collapses. Currently, any professional engineer can sign off on a building’s plans. A previous effort to pass this reform failed in 2015 when then-Gov. Rick Scott vetoed the bill.

Federal investigators with a focus on the technical aspects of the Champlain’s collapse arrived in Surfside days after the disaster, with hopes of understanding what changes in regulations and building codes could prevent another similar building failure. The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has studied disasters in the past, including 9/11 and Hurricane Maria, where there may be new science to be learned.

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