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Florida Condo SB 4-D Building Safety Law
Building Safety

Florida SB 4-D
Building Safety Law

Understanding Florida's Condo Safety Law SB 154: Milestone Inspection Legislation and Structural Integrity Reserves Studies (SIRS)

Florida’s condo safety landscape has seen significant shifts in the past year. These changes began with 2022’s SB 4-D, which was hastily passed in response to the collapse of the Champlain Towers South Condominium in Surfside, Florida. Originally focused on inspections, reserves, and transparency, the updated SB 154 of 2023 introduces key changes for condominiums and co-ops three stories or taller, as well as clarifying multiple items from the previous law.

One major tweak is the extension of the milestone inspection deadline. Buildings reaching 30 years old now have until December 31st, 2025, to complete the inspection. However, there are still looming deadlines for older buildings; inspections for buildings that reach 30 years of age before July 1, 2022, still must be performed before Dec. 31, 2024. Additionally, flexibility is shown for this deadline through petition allowances. Building owners may now request an extension if considerable effort has been made to schedule the inspection, but unforeseen challenges have prevented it from happening prior to the deadline.

Amendments + Clarifications from SB 4-D

Coastal condos specifically see amendments to their inspection schedules. The blanket 25-year inspection mandate has been replaced with a uniform 30-year standard inspection and subsequent inspections every 10 years. However, SB 154 clarifies that local authorities now retain the power to adjust this to 25 years based on environmental factors and proximity to saltwater.

Ownership responsibilities are also clarified. Building owners shoulder the inspection costs, and building associations must notify tenants and unit owners about deadlines within 14 days of receiving official notification. Furthermore, associations must distribute inspection results to all unit owners within 45 days of receipt from the inspector.

If ‘substantial structural deterioration’ was noted in the Phase One inspection, qualified inspectors must submit a Phase Two progress report to the local enforcement agency within 180 days of submitting the initial inspection report. SB 154 also adds that owners have 365 days, or earlier – if deemed necessary by municipality, after receipt of a failed report to commence required repairs on the building.

Qualified Inspectors

The composition of qualified inspectors expands under SB 154. While licensed architects and engineers remain central, teams of design professionals can now participate under their supervision. These teams must submit detailed progress reports, ensuring transparency throughout the inspection process.

Similar to past legislation, any professional engineer licensed in the state of Florida can perform the initial milestone and centennial follow-up inspections as the lead professional. Choosing a structural engineer with expertise in building structures is beneficial due to their focus on structural integrity in these assessments.

Structural Integrity Reserve Studies (SIRS)

Under SB 154, SIRS retain their 10-year requirement, but their scope undergoes adjustments. Components like floors and foundations are removed from the assessment, replaced by structure, primary structural systems, and exterior doors. Additionally, SB 154 emphasizes that SIRS only apply to association-maintained residential components.

In accordance with this latest update, SB 154 also states that the Florida Building Commission must adopt standards to establish a building safety plan by Dec. 31, 2024 that must include inspection criteria, testing protocols, standardized testing and reporting forms, and maintenance and retention requirements for local enforcement authorities.

SB 154 also states that the Florida Building Commission must adopt standards to establish a building safety plan by Dec. 31, 2024 that must include inspection criteria, testing protocols, standardized testing and reporting forms, and maintenance and retention requirements for local enforcement authorities.

Reserve Requirements

Finally, SB 154 clarifies mandatory reserve requirements. Condominium associations must set aside budgets specifically for future repairs and maintenance. For budgets adopted after December 31st, 2024, associations must fund reserves in line with SIRS recommendations, removing the option for unit owner-controlled buildings to partially fund or waive reserves.

These legislative adjustments signal a continued commitment to building safety and financial transparency in Florida’s condominiums. Thorough inspections in line with Florida Building Commission’s upcoming standards will be a critical step towards ensuring structural safety in condominiums throughout the state.

Thorough inspections in line with Florida Building Commission’s upcoming standards will be a critical step towards ensuring structural safety in condominiums throughout the state.

Structural Inspection Limitations

Despite the comprehensive regulations outlined in SB 154, it is important to acknowledge the limitations of visual inspections when it comes to assessing the overall structural health of a building. While the law emphasizes milestone inspections and SIRS, it’s important to note that these assessments often operate on a surface level. Despite the thoroughness, there is a risk that concealed damages may not be detected during inspections. It’s crucial for engineers to be aware of the limitations inherent in surface-level inspections and communicate these to clients and stakeholders. Clearly articulating that while diligent efforts are made to ensure structural integrity, certain elements may remain hidden from immediate scrutiny is paramount. This transparency not only manages expectations but also establishes a proactive approach to potential liability concerns. This proactive communication fosters trust between engineers, building owners, and associations, promoting a collaborative effort in maintaining the long-term safety and integrity of condominium structures.

This transparency not only manages expectations but also establishes a proactive approach to potential liability concerns.