Understanding the Impact of Florida’s Senate Bill 4-D on Condominium Safety Requirements
The Florida Legislature passed Senate Bill 4-D in May 2022, introducing new regulations for condominium and co-op buildings that are three or more stories tall. This statewide law establishes a comprehensive inspection program, mandating milestone structural inspections and structural integrity reserve studies to ensure the ongoing safety of these buildings.
Key Provisions of the Law:
- Milestone Structural Inspections:
- Phase-One Milestone Inspections:
- Conducted by a team of professionals led by a Florida-based architect or engineer.
- Visual inspection of primary structural members and systems.
- Identification of substantial structural deterioration that may impact the building’s condition, integrity, or occupants’ life safety.
- Documentation of observed unsafe or dangerous conditions.
- Determination of items requiring further inspection and necessary maintenance, repairs, or replacement of structural components.
- Costs are the responsibility of the association as defined in the governing documents, not necessarily all inspection costs.
- Phase-Two Milestone Inspections:
- Required if phase-one inspections indicate the need.
- May involve materials testing, probing, removal of finishes, or non-destructive testing.
- Detailed report describing inspection methods, identification of unsafe conditions, extent of structural deterioration, and recommendations for maintenance, repairs, or replacements.
- Failure to address required repairs within a year of the phase-two inspection report submission may lead to an assessment of the building’s safety by municipal authorities.
- Best Practices and Details:
- Additional testing or probing may be necessary, even if visible signs of deterioration are absent.
- All reports must be signed and sealed by a licensed professional.
- Reports must be provided to associations, local building officials, displayed in the building, and shared with unit owners.
- Failure by an officer or director to conduct milestone inspections is considered a breach of fiduciary responsibility.
- Structural Integrity Reserve Studies:
- Reserves must be funded based on a study determining the necessary funds for major repairs and replacements of common areas through visual inspections.
- Requirements of the Study:
- Inspection by a certified reserve specialist or professional reserve analyst.
- Identification of inspected common area elements.
- Estimated remaining useful life of each element.
- Replacement cost or deferred maintenance expense of each element.
- Recommended annual reserve amount needed for each element’s replacement or deferred maintenance expense.
- Studies must be kept for at least 15 years after completion.
- Residential condominiums of three stories or higher require structural integrity reserve studies every 10 years.
- Fiduciary and Financial Requirements:
- Unit-owner controlled associations must properly fund items identified in the reserve study by December 31, 2024.
- Funds must be used solely for the identified items and cannot be reduced or utilized for other purposes.
- Failure to complete the reserve study or fund reserves related to identified items is a breach of fiduciary duty.
- Non-compliance with SB-4D can result in personal liability for board members.
- Best Practices and Details:
- The study includes various elements such as roofs, load-bearing walls, primary structural members, floors, foundations, fireproofing and fire protection systems, plumbing, electrical systems, waterproofing and exterior painting, windows, exterior doors, and items with deferred maintenance or replacement costs exceeding $10,000 if their neglect affects structural integrity.
- The study primarily focuses on structural aspects of these systems.
Conclusion: Since Senate Bill 4-D is a recently implemented law, its interpretation and further clarification by the Florida Legislature, Florida Building Commission, and Florida State Fire Marshall are expected through the end of 2023. As a result, ongoing efforts may be required to ensure compliance with