On May 26, 2022, the Building Safety Act was signed into law. Spurred from the catastrophic Surfside condominium collapse, the bill was crafted to create a cohesive structural inspection plan with stringent reserve study and funding requirements at its core. The Building Safety Act impacts more than 3 million Florida residents who live in condo buildings.
A year later, confusion remains around how buildings need to comply and the deadlines they need to hit. Adding to the frenzy, Senate Bill-154 now looms, which would allow local officials to extend deadlines if condo owners have entered into contracts pertinent to milestone inspections, among other functions. Amid the latest legislative rumblings, SFBW recently chatted with Colliers’ Greg Main-Baillie, executive managing director of the real estate company’s Florida Development Services Group, for the latest pulse:
As it stands now, nearly a year after the Building Safety Act became law, what does it mean for condo owners throughout the state of Florida?
Unfortunately, condo buildings are not maintained to the same level that you would typically see in commercial assets. So, the state has mandated a particular minimal benchmark. The basics of it are that they elevated the benchmark of minimal requirement and made it a state mandate very similar to our building code. Unfortunately, it’s going to make condo living a little bit more expensive in the short term because many folks haven’t been adequately preparing their assets.
Amid the current landscape, what should condo owners and associations be doing proactively?
It really is age-dependent. A 10-year-old building doesn’t have to comply with a milestone inspection just yet or need to immediately engage an architectural engineering firm to conduct a structural integrity reserve study. Absolutely, any building more than 10 years old should be engaging to get a structural integrity reserve study done. For any building that’s currently in the early-20s age group, if they’ve just completed a major project with a particular engineer, they should immediately re-engage with that engineer—or a recent engineer—and get them to inspect for a milestone inspection or at least write their report for the milestone that will certify that building. I am really imploring any property manager and/or any board member that I speak to, if they haven’t started it, this needs to be their highest priority right now.
There is newly proposed legislation–SB 154–that would lead to changes to the Building Safety Act. What would it do and how would it affect condo owners?
To me, I liken this to when Hurricane Andrew hit and the building code changed, and every addendum to the building code since. It’s verifying and/or altering statements to the original document. SB-154 hasn’t necessarily changed any date and/or changed the level of scrutiny on the building. Moreover, it has defined the ability for buildings that may find themselves in a tight timeline of schedule to accomplish the needed mandates.
How do you see the climate related to the Building Safety Act evolving over time?
It’s going to get more specific for sure. I believe that the next 24 to 36 months are going to be a very topsy-turvy period for condos, condos owners and buildings that are older than 20 years. Also, board members are far more liable personally to civil suit than at any other point previously. We’ve got thousands and thousands of condo buildings throughout the state, in an already litigious environment. If someone is not able to make a sale and happens to lose the ability to sell or can prove monetary loss, the implications for board members are now huge.
If you were to offer one piece advice to anyone impacted by the Building Safety Act and whatever may be ahead, what would that be?
Bite the bullet now. The longer you wait, the worse it’s going to get.
Portrait by Larry Wood