How amendment to SB 4D could provide relief for Florida condo owners

Article Courtesy of Tampa Bay Business Journal

By  Greg Main-Baillie

Published May 29, 2023


The recently ended Florida legislative session provides some relief for condo owners across the state.

The Florida House and Senate both voted unanimously to approve a bill (SB 154) to amend the landmark condo safety legislation passed last year, Senate Bill 4D (SB 4D). SB 154 is now on the Florida governor’s desk for his signature to officially sign it into law, as of publication time. SB 4D, also known as the Building Safety Act, was the first upgrade to building codes since Hurricane Andrew in the early 1990s. While it provided a statewide step in the right direction, nearly 1.5 million condominiums across the state will still have to scramble to meet the costly and cumbersome new certification requirements.

Passed in the wake of the tragic Champlain Towers collapse in Surfside, SB 4D established minimum benchmarks for structural certification and reserve funding for condos and homeowners' associations. Florida's harsh environment, characterized by saltwater corrosion and proximity to the ocean for most mid- and high-rise structures, necessitates these maintenance regulations. When neglected, the corrosive effects of saltwater on reinforced concrete structures can lead to severe structural damage and even failure, as witnessed in the Surfside tragedy.

The new bill contains several amendments that aim to clarify aspects of the condo safety law, such as requirements for inspections and financial reserves, providing some relief for condo association boards scrambling to meet deadlines.

SB 4D established minimum benchmarks for structural certification and reserve funding for condos and homeowners' associations.


 Among the key amendments are:

  • Giving local agencies the power to determine if buildings within 3 miles of the coastline need to be inspected at 25 years or wait for a 30-year recertification.\

  • Allowing condo boards to waive full or partial funding of financial reserve requirements until the end of 2024 with a majority vote.

  • Expanding the types of professionals who can perform milestone inspections.

While these amendments provide some relief for condo owners, it is crucial for condo boards and buildings to act promptly. Many of SB 4D's requirements will need to be met one way or another. Starting the process sooner rather than later can save time and resources in the long run. The sooner condo owners and boards address these issues, the better equipped they will be to handle the financial implications and ensure the safety and well-being of all residents.

Ninety percent of Florida's buildings are reinforced concrete structures, which require a balance between the compressive strength of concrete and the tensile strength of steel. Concrete acts as a protective layer, but when neglected, steel inside can rust, leading to weakened structures and potential failure. The new mandates prompted by the Surfside tragedy are forcing condos to address big-ticket repairs for structural components that have been neglected over the years. Maintenance is often delayed due to the significant cost, a lack of consensus among board members and residents, and insufficient experience.

Board members are typically not construction professionals, and thus don’t understand the importance of such maintenance. These deferrals often lead to skyrocketing costs over time.

For now, under SB 4D, condos and HOAs with over three stories must fully fund reserves for components exceeding $10,000 in replacement value, including structure, waterproofing, fire systems and more. The structural components have rarely been on the radar of an individual purchasing a residential condo. Buyers have had limited insight into the bones of a building and the overall condition of the asset. SB 4D finally established a minimum standard, promoting safety and transparency with current and future owners.

Although the new amendments may alleviate some of the immediate pressure from SB 4D, now is the time for condo boards and buildings to act and ensure they meet the requirements in time. By acting promptly and responsibly, Florida's condo owners and boards can create a safer and more transparent living environment for all residents while addressing the unique challenges posed by the state's harsh environment.