What To Know A Year After The Surfside Collapse

Insights into landmark regulations and other changes that resulted from the disaster.

Adam Mopsick

On June 24, 2021, the Champlain Towers South, a beachfront condominium in the Miami suburb of Surfside, Fla., partially collapsed, sending shockwaves throughout the industry and shedding new light on the true meaning of condo safety. Today, a little over a year after the terrible tragedy, a condo reform bill unanimously was passed in the effort to prevent similar disasters from occurring, now mandating regular statewide building inspections and condominium associations to maintain adequate reserves for their required repairs. What does this mean for the industry? It means that the historically neglected repairs will now need to be addressed and completed, leading to significant assessments on unit owners.

According to the new bill that began on July 1, all condos and cooperatives that are least 30 years old must be inspected. Those within 3 miles of the coast will undergo inspections at the 25-year mark and reinspections must occur every 10 years. Prior to this, only Miami-Dade and Broward counties had inspection requirements at the 40-year mark. Additionally, starting Dec. 31, 2024, condo associations can no longer waive the collection of reserves for future building repairs.

What to know about reform and potential financial implications

With reform here, there are new financial challenges and hurdles for condos associations and owners alike due to the mandated inspections, assessments and the collection of reserves. To properly follow the financial intricacies, it is integral to appoint a professional company to advise and manage the lifespan of a project, serving as a strategic liaison between the association and their lenders. The primary responsibility at this point of the project lifecycle is to provide and explain the supporting documentation to justify projected costs used for loan or line of credit applications.

Many banks who lend in the condominium space are requiring an owner’s representative and/or an engineer to certify the budgets presented to the bank for underwriting. Experts in this field will strongly advocate for appropriate contingencies and heavy due diligence prior to formalizing budgets presented for assessments, which are typically used to collateralize the loans. One of the worst scenarios is a project assessment that is under budgeted because of incomplete due diligence, lack of qualification or general misunderstanding of design and construction documents, and costs on the front end.

Reaching the finish line of these massive restoration projects is an intricate, time consuming and difficult process to navigate. Due to such circumstances, many companies deploy resources to work with property management and operation teams to ensure construction is executed in a manner commensurate with operational requirements, including amenity functions, elevators, valet, food service, etc. Naturally many, if not all, of these elements can be impacted throughout the duration of construction. The goal is to work with the community to mitigate the impact and ensure resident expectations are managed in order to prepare accordingly in advance of and during construction.

The effects on condo owners and board members

Though this is relatively new legislation, there is already a great deal of speculation that the demographics in condo buildings are going to change as reforms are expected to raise the cost of condo ownership. Due to the financial implications, legacy owners with units that are rented out or used to house older generations will probably look to sell. From a market perspective, the new increase in HOAs for required preventative maintenance may act like a bump in interest rates, though luxury units in newer buildings are likely not going to be affected tremendously.

The industry can expect an influx in professional management and reduction in the number of self-managed buildings to defer liability. As a whole, more stringent requirements on qualifying for office as a board member are crucial. Boards will now need to be particularly knowledgeable about these adjustments and how they will affect the upkeep and financial planning for the organizations. Board members previously had “options” or gray areas regarding inspections, certifications, and long-term reserve planning; however, these options and loopholes have become more restrictive or have completely disappeared.

Both new and seasoned board members must already complete current educational coursework or attest to their knowledge of applicable Florida statutes and their association’s governing documents. Since these improvements significantly depart from the traditional rules of governance, Boards are encouraged to engage in education for themselves or their committee members. This is where management businesses may help, particularly those with a wide customer base and a deeper pool of resources. The kind of comprehension and education needed in these situations may find self-managed groups or associations managed by smaller enterprises with limited resources to be at a considerable disadvantage.

Looking forward

With the future of condo safety looking brighter, the ache haunting those who lost family and friends in the collapse has not vanished. Instead, one year later, it serves as a poignant reminder of why condo reforms are a necessity, to ensure no one else will share their anguish.

Amicon’s Co-Founder & CEO Adam Mopsick has been helping condo associations and HOAs navigate the impacts and challenges that have resulted in much needed reform.

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