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Florida lawmakers pass condo safety legislation almost year after Surfside collapse

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TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — While the investigation into the exact cause continues, documents released by the City of Surfside revealed the warning signs for the beachfront Champlain Towers South condo building collapse.

Eleven months after the tragedy that killed 98 people who were home when the condo building suddenly crumbled to the ground in the middle of the night, Florida lawmakers in both chambers passed new legislation that set statewide standards for more frequent inspections and requires condo associations to set aside money for critical repairs.

“This is real policy with real change affecting real families,” House sponsor, Rep. Danny Perez (R-Miami) said moments before the unanimous vote Wednesday before the close of the Special Session.

Lawmakers like Perez and State Rep. Jackie Toledo (R-Tampa) said they are hoping to prevent another tragedy similar to what happened in Surfside last June.

“When this was discovered, there’s no real process,” Toledo said, “I think that’s when people said we need to do more and there has to be a maintenance and inspection process.”

After failing to pass condo safety reforms during the Regular Session, the bill, now headed to Gov. Ron DeSantis’ desk, requires a test to find out if a condo building is structurally sound if an engineer or architect spots signs of deterioration during an initial inspection.

“It’s definitely something that is going to protect owners here as well,” Attorney Alicia Seward said of the new legislation. She represents a dozen condo associations in three Bay Area counties.

Starting in 2025, condo associations will be required to collect money for reserves to make structural repairs. During the Regular Session, the senate removed that provision, which Perez insisted belonged in this legislation. 

“I can understand that concern that owners would have pay additional moneys when they’re already spread so thin,” Seward said.

She pointed out it will likely be harder for older condo owners on fixed incomes to contribute to reserve funds, but still she added it’s important for protecting a major investment.

“Purchasing a condo or any property is a huge investment, spending hundreds of thousands of dollars and you don’t want to see that just gone in a day,” Seward said.

Toledo said local building officials will keep track of the inspection records. The new law also requires condo associations to conduct studies every ten years to make sure they are able to pay for structural repairs.

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