Voters support more inspections of aging condos, poll finds

The poll comes as Florida lawmakers consider changes in the wake of the condo collapse last June in Surfside.
Rescue workers search in the rubble on July 5, 2021, after the remaining portion of the 12-story oceanfront Champlain Towers South Condo was brought down the previous evening with a controlled demolition in Surfside.
Rescue workers search in the rubble on July 5, 2021, after the remaining portion of the 12-story oceanfront Champlain Towers South Condo was brought down the previous evening with a controlled demolition in Surfside. [ CHRIS DAY | South Florida ]
Published Feb. 16, 2022

TALLAHASSEE — As Florida legislators decide whether or not to require regular structural inspections of all aging condominiums in the state, a new poll shows that voters overwhelmingly support the idea.

A poll by Mason-Dixon research found that 85 percent of all voters surveyed said they support “requiring periodic inspections of all multi-family residential units in Florida.”

The survey comes as lawmakers are advancing new legislation in response to the collapse of Champlain Towers South in Surfside last June.

The new rules would require structural inspections of condos after 30 years if they are three stories or higher, or are 25 years old and within three miles of the coast. Every 10 years after that, the buildings must be recertified again.

Related: Florida bill would require condo owners to conduct inspections, save for repairs

If the inspection reveals “substantial damage to certain structural or life-safety systems,” the proposal requires an additional, more intensive inspection, called a “phase 2″ inspection. The repairs would have to adhere to a time schedule advised by the architect or engineer that does the inspection.

The Senate has advanced SB 1702, sponsored by Sen. Jennifer Bradley, and SB 7042 by the Senate Regulated Industries Committee, and the House is moving HB 7069 by the House Pandemics and Public Emergencies. The bills incorporate recommendations outlined by the Surfside Working Group’s Florida Building Professionals Recommendations.

The measures also attempt to address issues around how to pay for the structural improvements once they are identified. Current law allows the condo associations to waive the assessment requirements, leaving price tags in place and repairs neglected for years. The governance structure of condominium associations allows them to elect boards of directors and hire management companies, but when it comes to funding repairs, many associations are reluctant to impose the fees on the members who elected them.

There are an estimated 2 million people living in more than 912,000 condominium units that are 30 years or older. Of the 1.5 million condo units in Florida, another 131,773 are 20 to 30 years old, and more than 105,000 condo units are more than 50 years old.

Under current law, only Miami-Dade and Broward counties and some individual cities require regular inspections of condos to ascertain their structural integrity.

“It’s clear that Floridians want lawmakers to take swift action this legislative session to help ensure we never experience another Surfside condo collapse,” said Allen Douglas, executive director of the Florida Engineering Society and the American Council of Engineering Companies of Florida, which released the poll results.

Brad Coker, CEO/managing director of Mason-Dixon Polling & Strategy, said the results demonstrate “the high level of concern that Floridians have regarding the safety of high-rise construction and their overwhelming support for expanding inspection requirements across the state.”

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The poll of 625 registered Florida voters, interviewed live by telephone using randomly selected numbers from a voter registration list, included both landline and cell phone numbers. The margin for error was plus or minus 4 percentage points.

Voters were told that there are more than 3.5 million people living in about 1 million condominium units that are at least 20 years old and only a small number of communities require safety inspections. They were asked if they support more frequent inspections or not.

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