No doubt some changes are on the way for condominiums as a result of the Surfside tragedy. The changes are long overdue. Here’s another long overdue change that is necessary..the condominium insurance statutes.
Suppose I told you that under Florida law, there is no absolute requirement that your condominium association insure the building(s). Sounds crazy right? Yet, here is what the law actually says:
d) An association controlled by unit owners operating as a residential condominium shall use its best efforts to obtain and maintain adequate property insurance to protect the association, the association property, the common elements, and the condominium property that must be insured by the association pursuant to this subsection.
What in the world does “best efforts” mean? Does it mean that “We made a few calls…..the premiums were too high…..so we forgot about getting insurance?” Is that using best efforts? Have you ever read such a contradictory statute? On the one hand it says the board must use its best efforts. On the other hand, the same statute says that the condominium property “must be insured.” Which is it?
Think for a second if Champlain Towers was not insured? The very thought of it sounds impossible, but it isn’t.
But wait…..it gets worse. Even if the property is insured the statute says:
The coverage must exclude all personal property within the unit or limited common elements, and floor, wall, and ceiling coverings, electrical fixtures, appliances, water heaters, water filters, built-in cabinets and countertops, and window treatments, including curtains, drapes, blinds, hardware, and similar window treatment components, or replacements of any of the foregoing which are located within the boundaries of the unit and serve only such unit. Such property and any insurance thereupon is the responsibility of the unit owner.
So, let’s say your condominium property is insured, but you did not purchase a separate HO-6 policy for your unit. All you get back is your four walls. That’s right, basically a shell.
What about flood insurance? Is that mandatory in Florida for your condominium? No, it isn’t. The association “may” purchase it.
Just to make things crystal clear for our esteemed legislators, at the moment there is absolutely no requirement to fund reserve accounts so that the money is there should major life threatening repairs become necessary. And to make matters worse, if a tragedy does befall the property and the owners, there’s not even a requirement that the building was to be insured.
This would almost be comical if it weren’t so sad. We live in a state that:
1. Every year gets hit with tropical storms and hurricanes;
2. Suffers sinkhole collapses;
3. Has thousands of buildings lining our coasts and the buildings take a beating from the salt water;
4. Does not require unit owners in a condominium to put away reserve funds should major repairs be necessary
5. Does not require associations to purchase insurance, but only use their “best efforts” which is undefined;
6. Is home to more senior citizens on fixed incomes than almost any other state in the country.
You do the math. When the special assessments start coming as a result of massive repairs that are required on our aging buildings, associations will look to save money elsewhere. Yes, many boards believe it or not will take the position that insurance is not necessary, or that despite their “best efforts” it is simply unaffordable. I have met boards like that already.
In the upcoming legislative session, The Florida Legislature has a real tough job on their hands. Passing laws that reflect the true cost of actually living in a condominium, and no longer giving unit owners and board members enough rope to hang themselves with.