TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WFLA) — In addition to trying to fix the state’s homeowners insurance crisis, Florida lawmakers are addressing condominium safety during a special session this week in Tallahassee.
Members of the Florida legislature decided Tuesday to expand the special session, which began Monday, to address condominium safety in the wake of last year’s collapse of the Champlain Towers in South Florida.
Almost 100 people died in the collapse in Surfside. In the wake of that tragedy, state lawmakers promised reform aimed at preventing it from happening again. But during this year’s legislative session, they failed to pass any new safety measures.
A handful of bills were filed, though none actually passed. HB 7069 came closest, but failed when the Florida Senate removed a requirement championed in the House that would have required condo associations to keep reserve funds on hand to handle critical safety repairs — the type that were waived in Surfside due to high costs.
“It was important to the House that if there is a structural integrity issue for a building, that people do what’s necessary to defend the people who live there to protect themselves, to make sure they fix it and put the dollars aside to fix it,” said House Speaker Chris Sprowls, R-Palm Harbor.
Lawmakers filed a bill Tuesday in the House to address those safety measures. House Bill 5D would revise and provide new laws for condo associations.
The bill, in part, would require condo associations “to have milestone inspections performed on certain buildings at specified times” and specifies that they are responsible for the costs of those inspections.
It would also authorize county commissioners to “adopt certain ordinances relating to repairs for substantial structural deterioration” and require local law enforcement to “review and determine if a building is unsafe for human occupancy under certain circumstances.”
Sprowls said the bill introduced Tuesday comes after lawmakers “grappled” with coming to an agreement on meaningful reform.
“We will never forget the pain, confusion, and sorrow the community and state felt when the Surfside condominium building collapsed and took 98 lives with it,” Sprowls said in a statement. “The Florida Legislature has grappled with reaching a consensus on what meaningful reform looks like, but today we have arrived at an agreement that will help to ensure this kind of tragedy never happens again.”
The governor’s office also responded to the legislation, which was initiated by lawmakers and is outside the scope of his call for a special session.
“In the wake of the devastating Surfside building collapse, the governor has encouraged the legislature to reach a consensus on reforms that would address condominium structural safety,” the governor’s office stated in an emailed statement from press secretary Christina Pushaw. “We are pleased to see the legislature’s progress in this special session. This proposal is a welcomed step to ensure that such a tragedy, like the community of Surfside experienced last year, will never happen again.”
“As the governor has mentioned, there are ongoing federal and local investigations into the finite details of the Champlain Towers South disaster,” the statement continued. “When those investigations are complete, we will review their findings and carefully consider any recommendations for further reforms based on those findings. The safety of Floridians is an important priority for the governor.”