Florida condos should be inspected frequently, panel says

MIAMI – A Florida grand jury on Wednesday released a long list of recommendations to prevent another condominium collapse like the one that killed 98 people in June, including earlier and more frequent inspections and better sealing.

In its report on the Surfside collapse, the Miami-Dade County grand jury called on state and local authorities to require condominium towers to undergo an initial recertification inspection by an engineer between 10 and 15 years after their construction and every 10 years thereafter. Currently, Miami-Dade and neighboring Broward County require 40-year inspections. The rest of Florida counties have no requirements.

The Champlain South Towers, built in 1981, collapsed on June 24 when its 40-year recertification was due. No cause for the collapse has been determined, but records show the building sustained significant structural damage in its underground parking lot. An engineer had already concluded that $ 15 million in repairs would be needed to bring it up to standard. Some of the damage to the oceanfront building is believed to be due to the salt water in the air.

The grand jury report laments that the state repealed a requirement imposed in 2008 that all condo towers over three stories tall be inspected every five years. The requirement was repealed two years after it was imposed because it was deemed too costly.

“Looking back, it would appear that the repeal of this law by the legislature was a huge mistake!” said the report.

Other recommendations include: – Require that condo towers be repainted and waterproofed every 10 years to prevent corrosion.

– Ensure that local governments increase the size of their construction services, in particular by hiring more inspectors.

– Suspend for at least one year the licenses of engineers and architects who submit false or misleading recertification reports and prohibit their employers from carrying out such inspections for the same period. Require that a second offense result in a license revocation.

– Require architects and engineers who find serious structural damage during an inspection to report it to local authorities within 24 hours and not just to the condominium board.

– Require condominium owners to take courses in their role in overseeing building maintenance and effectively managing a building’s finances.

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