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Florida’s congressional Democrats call on DeSantis to address condo safety

The Florida Legislature considered legislation in the wake of the Surfside condo collapse but was unable to pass anything during the regular session.
 
Search and rescue team members climb the debris field of the 12-story oceanfront condo, Champlain Towers South along Collins Avenue in Surfside, Fla., on Wednesday, July 7, 2021.
Search and rescue team members climb the debris field of the 12-story oceanfront condo, Champlain Towers South along Collins Avenue in Surfside, Fla., on Wednesday, July 7, 2021. [ AL DIAZ | AP ]
Published April 12, 2022|Updated April 12, 2022

WASHINGTON — Congressional Democrats from Florida are calling for the Florida Legislature to tackle new regulations for condominiums in its upcoming special session after state lawmakers failed to pass reforms in the wake of last year’s tragic collapse in Surfside that killed 98 people.

Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla., whose district includes Surfside, led a letter Monday to Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis that urged him to add condominium reform to the upcoming legislative session next week focused on redistricting.

“Following the collapse, a task force organized by the Florida Bar recommended that lawmakers overhaul the state’s condominium laws. At least two condominiums have been evacuated because they were deemed unsafe for residents since the Champlain Towers South collapse,” Wasserman Schultz’s letter states.

Related: Florida Legislature can't agree on bill to increase aging condo inspections

“The Florida House and Senate each had condominium reform legislation that failed to pass both chambers in the waning hours of the 2022 legislative session. Ensuring the safety of condominium residents cannot wait another year. Lives are at stake.”

This past legislative session, Florida lawmakers failed to pass a proposal to require routine inspections of condos.

State law currently sets no standards for high-rise inspections. Miami-Dade and Broward counties are the only ones in the state that require regular inspections of the structural integrity of condos, and then it only begins at the 40-year mark.

Under current law, condo boards that discover serious problems are also under no obligation to inform local authorities or unit owners.

The letter to DeSantis was co-signed by all 11 Democrats in the Florida congressional delegation, including Rep. Charlie Crist, a former governor who is running for the Democratic nomination to take on DeSantis in November.

The letter was sent the same day that state Sen. Jeffrey Brandes, R-St. Petersburg, announced that he would push to force a special session to address property insurance by using a petition process to circumvent the Republican legislative leadership. Also Monday, Florida Senate President Wilton Simpson and Florida House Speaker Chris Sprowls, both Republicans, announced that legislators would defer to DeSantis on drawing congressional maps instead of crafting their own during the special session beginning April 19.

Related: Florida Legislature won't draft new redistricting map, deferring to DeSantis

Wasserman Schultz’s office declined to comment on the redistricting process.