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Jax Daily Record Thursday, Feb. 3, 202205:00 AM EST

Condominium safety and transparency on lawmakers’ minds in Tallahassee

The deadly collapse in Surfside prompts legislators to file 27 safety-related bills.
by: Dan Macdonald Staff Writer

The collapse of the Champlain Towers South in Surfside last summer placed condominiums on the minds of Florida state legislators. 

The Orlando-based Florida Realtors trade organization, which was formed in Jacksonville in 1916, reports there are at least 27 bills concerning condominium regulation and safety working through committees in Tallahassee.

The 2022 legislative session began Jan. 11 and is set to continue through March 11.

Trey Goldman, Florida Realtors legislative counsel in Tallahassee.

The News Service of Florida reports the Senate Community Affairs Committee passed SB 1702 unanimously. It was introduced by committee Chair Sen. Jennifer Bradley, R-Fleming Island. It passed the Senate Regulated Industries Committee on Feb. 1.

It calls for any multifamily structure more than three stories tall and located within 3 miles of the coastline to be inspected after 20 years and every seven years after that first inspection. 

Those beyond the 3-mile limit would have to be inspected 30 years after construction and every 10 years after that.

The bill also calls for buildings constructed after July 1, 1992, to be inspected by Dec. 31, 2024.

The increased costs for the inspections and any restoration work would be paid by property owners and residential associations, according to the bill.

Currently, there is no House version of the bill.

Trey Goldman, Florida Realtors legislative counsel in Tallahassee, said to watch SB 7042. Besides addressing condominium safety and maintenance, it has provisions to inform buyers about a building’s history before closing.

The Florida Realtors group wants condominium associations to be more transparent about the condition of a building, maintenance records and reserve funds.

“There are 27,000 condo associations in Florida. Some are professionally run and others are not. They are made up of volunteer boards of directors,” Goldman said.

Condo boards can have minuscule reserve funds for major maintenance problems like a new roof. It is alleged that was the case at Surfside. 

Goldman said that worse yet, associations at older buildings can vote to either ignore or implement new safety laws enacted by the state. Associations governing such buildings can waive requirements like installing fire sprinkler systems.

Late last week, SB 7042 was introduced. It is 70-plus pages and looks like there will be a House sponsor. 

It combines in one bill most of the concerns contained in the other 27 bills, Goldman said.

Whether it is SB 7042 or a compromise coming from both state houses, expect new condominium regulation this year

Condominium reform is just part of the Florida Realtors legislative agenda.

It is advocating for a Hometown Hero Housing Program to help qualified front-line and emergency workers make down payments and pay closing costs. 

It would be open to teachers, firefighters, health care professionals and law enforcement personnel.

This initiative may go down to the wire, Goldman said. While it has its merits, it needs to find a new funding source. 

The program would operate similar to the Salute Our Soldiers Military Loan Program, which provides military personnel and veterans the ability to acquire a 30-year, fixed-rate mortgage at a lower rate as well as making down payment assistance available.

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