Today, I feel sadness for the victims in Surfside and their families. I said a million times on the air and in columns that they did not die in vain. I swore that as a result of their deaths, The Florida Legislature would ensure that at least some forms of reserves would be mandatory, that inspections by building officials would become mandatory, that the calculation of reserve studies would be done by experts who have no financial interest in the outcome and that of course, education of Board members would become mandatory. I was wrong.
The Republican DOMINATED House and Senate could not come to terms on a single piece of condominium legislation on any of these life safety issues even though both the House and The Senate are completely in the hands of the same party, the Republicans. Republicans control the Senate 24 – 15. Republicans control The House 78 – 41. Not even on non-controversial categories like education for board members and whether or not there should be mandatory inspections of buildings by building officials could they agree upon.
You know that I have been trying to keep all of you up to date on what was going on in Tallahassee this week. With two days left in the session, my educational component was pulled from the bill. I was told by Senator Bradley’s office that it had to be removed in order to get the safety bill passed in The House, as per Representative Daniel Perez. Does anyone else find it beyond incredible that Representative Perez represents Miami, the same place where the Champlain Towers fell, and according to Senator Bradley’s office, he wanted mandatory education removed?
The Senate apparently caved to the House’s requirements and passed a bill 38 to zero, that would have still allowed owners the ability to waive reserves as usual; a majority of a quorum. It also would have removed the educational requirement for directors. However, it would have required mandatory PHASE One and/or Phase 2 inspections throughout the state after 30 years by an architect or engineer ; 25 years on the coast. It would have required the association to provide these engineering or architectural reports to all of the owners. Knowing the clock was ticking, the thought was, at least let’s pass some safety bill, and The Senate did so unanimously; obviously with strong bi-partisan support. Now, the members of The House of Representatives should have had the ability to vote on the same bill right? Wrong. Instead, The Speaker Chris Sprowls never even let it get to a vote. Just like that any potential for new safety laws or education of members was declared dead, even though there were two days left in the session.
Our state just suffered the worst non terrorist or war related collapse of a residential building perhaps the world has ever seen. You would think that our leaders would make sure to lock themselves in a room until and unless some safety measures regarding our condominiums be passed. Instead, with two days left in the session, any attempt at coming up with a bill was declared dead.
As all of you know, I am a Republican. Today however, I have no problem in letting all of you know just how much The Republican Party let you down. They can’t blame The Democrats for this one. Despite the fact that the tragedy caused us to examine what we already knew, that buildings don’t get inspected, reserves don’t get funded, emergency repairs don’t get made and the members of the board are not required to learn a thing; your Republican dominated legislature let you down big time; especially The House of Representatives and allowed these dangerous measures to remain for at least another year.
I often refer to the blog I wrote in May of 2018, imploring The Florida Legislature to require at least some form of mandatory reserves. I stated:
like it or not, some form of reserves should be mandatory and not subject to being waived. There, I said it. Let’s streamline the way reserves are calculated. Let’s get rid of the “life expectancy” formula the state says you should follow but nobody does. It’s a joke anyway. We all know the truth that the life expectancy of the roof somehow gets longer, the closer you get to the original estimate of how long it was going to last. Five years ago it had a five year life expectancy. Money is tight, so today it has a new 10 year life expectancy. Somehow, like fine wine, the roof got better with age. We all know that happens, and it happens every day. So how about we make things simple. Let’s just say every condominium must contribute 10% of its annual budget to reserves for roof, plumbing, electrical, structural and painting. It all goes into one pot and it can be used for any repair necessary for those categories. It can’t be waived. If however an association wants to contribute more, they can.
At the time I wrote that, the statute did not mention that reserves for “structural” are required. I sure wish structural reserves were required at The Champlain Towers. And by the way…..the 10% formula is being used by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, wanting to make sure condominiums are putting away at least that amount each year for reserves, before they will guarantee a mortgage.
The Republicans in The Florida Legislature should be ashamed of themselves for walking away without some sort of a deal. If he has the power to do so, I urge Governor DeSantis to order The House and The Senate back into session and don’t let them walk away unless a deal gets done. He cannot allow another Champlain Towers to happen in this state. The consequences to him personally would be devastating. After practicing in this area for 30 years now, I’m telling you for sure and for certain, that without immediate changes to the law, another Champlain Towers tragedy is not too far behind. Does anyone really think that the situation at Champlain Towers, the dragging of the feet to make repairs due to not having enough reserves on hand, is unique to that one building? Of course it’s not. That building just happened to go first.