Jun 23, 2023 - Economy

Condo safety law sparked by Surfside collapse may force owners out

Construction scaffolds are seen by the entrance of the Mirage Condo Surfside

Construction scaffolds by the entrance of the Mirage Condo Surfside. Photo: Pedro Portal/Miami Herald/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

Following the Surfside collapse, condominium owners across Florida feared their building could be next, so state lawmakers passed new building restrictions last year.

  • But some experts worry that the new law could force owners out of their homes if they can't pay for multimillion renovations.

Why it matters: Florida's Building Safety Act, which Surfside victims' families lobbied to pass, was well-intentioned and necessary but may lead to unintended consequences, said Jordan Isrow, a South Florida attorney who works with condo owners.

How it works: The law requires residential buildings at least three stories tall to conduct milestone inspections when they turn 30 years old and every decade following. (For buildings on the coast, the first inspection is at 25 years.)

  • Those inspections can prompt major renovations if the engineer or architect finds structural damage.
  • The law also requires condos to order structural integrity reserve studies estimating the remaining useful life of the building's common areas and to budget annual reserves for future renovations.
  • All reserve studies must be completed by December 2024.

Of note: Miami-Dade and Broward County buildings were already required to conduct 40-year inspections.

What they're saying: Isrow told Axios the new law is attracting developers who want to buy up older buildings at a discount because owners facing steep assessments will be forced to sell for less.

  • "No one foresaw that this was going to become used against [owners] to help outside [investors]," he said.
  • On the flip side, he said, the law doesn't go far enough to ensure condo associations are conducting necessary inspections because it allows local governments to grant extensions.

Greg Main-Baillie, who works for Colliers as an owner's representative and as a consultant for condo associations, told Axios that owners will begin to feel the pain in the next year or two after the deadlines take effect.

  • The bill "needed to happen," he said. But "unfortunately, it's going to force a migration of people."
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