Florida Legislature Approves Condo Safety Changes
Condo associations are a common feature of Florida’s real estate landscape, particularly in densely populated urban areas such as Miami and Tampa. These associations are responsible for managing the common areas of condominium buildings, collecting fees from unit owners, and enforcing rules and regulations related to building maintenance, security, and other matters.
In an issue stemming from the deadly collapse of a condominium building in Surfside, the Florida Senate on Wednesday unanimously passed a bill that would make changes to a condominium-safety law approved last year. 98 people died in the June 2021 collapse of the Champlain Towers South building in Surfside.
The bill (SB 154) is designed, in part, to address concerns that emerged as condominium associations started to carry out the law approved during a May special session. The law and the Senate bill deal with issues such as inspections and condominium-association financial reserves.
SB 154 for example, would make changes in what are known as “milestone” inspections for condominium buildings three stories or higher. Under last year’s law, inspections are required for buildings that have been occupied for 30 years – or 25 years if the buildings are within three miles of a coastline. After initial inspections, the buildings have to go through the process every 10 years.
In response to these issues, the Florida Senate has approved SB 154, which includes a number of provisions aimed at increasing transparency and accountability in condo associations. Some of the key provisions of the bill include:
- Annual financial reports: Under SB 154, condo associations with annual revenues of $500,000 or more will be required to prepare and distribute annual financial reports to unit owners. These reports must include detailed information on the association’s income and expenses, reserves, and liabilities.
- Board member education: The bill requires condo board members to complete an educational course within 90 days of being elected or appointed to the board. The course will cover topics such as financial management, insurance, and condominium law.
- Conflicts of interest: SB 154 prohibits condo board members from engaging in conflicts of interest, such as self-dealing or accepting gifts from contractors. Board members must also disclose any potential conflicts of interest to the association’s members.
- Recall procedures: The bill provides clearer guidelines for the recall of condo board members. Under the new rules, a recall petition must be signed by at least 10% of the association’s voting interests. Once a recall petition has been filed, the board member in question will have the opportunity to respond before a recall vote is held.
The bill, sponsored by Sen. Jennifer Bradley, R-Fleming Island, would ease that somewhat, allowing buildings within three miles of the coastline to be inspected after they have been occupied for 30 years. However, it would allow local officials to require the inspections after 25 years of occupancy depending on “local circumstances, including environmental conditions such as proximity to salt water.”
The Senate unanimously passed the bill. It now goes to the House and, if passed there, to Gov. DeSantis for his signature.
A House version of the bill (HB 1395) is ready to go to the House Commerce Committee. If passed by the House and then signed into law by Gov. Ron DeSantis, the bill would also allow local officials to extend inspection deadlines if building owners have entered into contracts with architects or engineers but the inspections cannot be finished in time.