On May 26, 2022, the Governor of Florida signed into law Senate Bill 4-D in response to the Surfside hi-rise collapse in Miami. In order to minimize the chances of similar residential building collapses in the future, the new law will require mandatory structural inspections, structural integrity reserve studies and removal of waiver of reserves for condominium or cooperative buildings by 12/31/24.
While some Associations are engaging engineers and architects now to meet the new law provisions, as the new requirements either need not be completed before, or commence after 12/31/24, many Associations are planning to wait until after the 2023 legislative session next spring to see how the new law may be tweaked by the legislature to make its provisions less onerous to implement for most Associations.
In this article we will look at the requirements for the mandatory milestone structural inspections. Next month we will look at the details of the structural integrity reserve studies and removal of the ability for Association members to vote to waive reserve study reserves.
For condominium or cooperative buildings three (3) stories or more in height, by December 31st of the year in which the building reaches thirty (30) years old [twenty five (25) years old for buildings located within three (3) miles from the coastline], and every ten (10) years thereafter, a Milestone Structural Inspection must be performed by a licensed architect or engineer.
If the building’s certificate of occupancy was issued on or before July 1, 1992, the buildings initial Milestone Structural Inspection must be performed before 12/31/24.
A local enforcement agency (City or County) must provide written notice of the required Milestone Inspection to the Association and the Association then has 180 days to complete Phase One of the Milestone Inspection.
Phase One of the Milestone Inspection requires the architect or engineer to perform a visual inspection of the building, including the major structural components, and provide a qualitative assessment of the structural conditions of the building. If the architect or engineer finds no sign of substantial structural deterioration to any building components, then Phase Two of the inspection is not required and the professional doing the inspection then submits its inspection report to the local enforcement agency.
However, if substantial structural deterioration is found (substantial structural distress that negatively affects a building’s general structural condition and integrity and does not includes surface imperfections), then Phase Two of the Milestone Inspection must be performed. This inspection may be as extensive or as limited as necessary to fully assess areas of structural distress in order to confirm that the building is structurally sound and safe for its intended use and to recommend a program for fully assessing and repairing distresses and damaged portions of the building.
Upon completion of the Phase One or Phase Two inspections, the inspection professional must submit a sealed copy of the inspection report, with a summary, findings, and recommendations for repairs, to the Association and the local building official with jurisdiction. The Association is also required to distribute the summary to each unit owner and post a copy of the summary in a conspicuous place on the property.
Such repairs must be commenced within 365 days after receiving the Phase Two inspection report and the Association must provide the local enforcement agency with proof that repairs have been scheduled or commenced and if Association fails to provide such the local enforcement agency must review and determine if the building is unsafe for human occupancy.
The Association is responsible for all costs associated with the inspection. If the officers or directors of an association wilfully and knowingly fail to have a Milestone Inspection performed, as required, such failure is deemed a breach of the officers’ and directors’ fiduciary duties to the owners.
Rob Samouce is a principal attorney in the Naples law firm of Samouce & Gal, P.A. He is a Florida Bar Board Certified Specialist in Condominium and Planned Development and concentrates his practice representing condominium, cooperative and homeowners= associations in all their legal needs including the procedural governance of their associations, covenant enforcement, assessment collections, contract negotiations and contract litigation, real estate transactions, general business law, construction defect litigation and other general civil litigation matters. This column is not based on specific legal advice to anyone and is based on principles subject to change from time to time. If you have any questions about the column, Rob can be reached at www.SandGlawfirm.com.