One year later: Surfside collapse spurs law change but safety experts remain concerned

The cause of a tragic condo collapse in Surfside that claimed the lives of 98 people remains under investigation by the National Institute of Standards and Technology.

The cause of a tragic condo collapse in Surfside that claimed the lives of 98 people remains under investigation by the National Institute of Standards and Technology.

The Champlain Towers South collapse happened exactly one year ago Friday.

The NIST probe enters a new phase this month to cut and drill into concrete and steel.

Champlain Towers South had a long history of maintenance problems, and shoddy construction techniques were used in the early 1980s.

Hundreds of reports reveal years of problems with the condo that were never addressed.

Other possible factors include sea level rise caused by climate change and damage caused by saltwater intrusion.

Regardless of the cause, many have said that one of the deadliest collapses in U.S. history could have been prevented. The tragedy sparked some changes to Florida law.

Just last month, lawmakers unanimously passed condo safety reforms.

Experts on HOA safety said they hope it’s enough.

“They had a $3 million repair in the beginning. In 2018, it was a $9 million repair. And then 2021, it was at $16 million in repairs,” said David Rauch, an HOA safety expert who says as the price for repairs went up, the damage got worse. “And, of course, the ultimate expense at Champlain Towers was a loss of life.”

It took Florida Lawmakers less than a year from the collapse to pass condo safety reforms.

The law requires statewide recertification of condos over three stories tall. Recertification would be required after 30 years, or 25 if the building is within 3 miles of the coast, and every 10 years after.

Rauch said it’s a good step, but he said there should be more inspections more often and that developers should be required to give a maintenance manual to show how, when and what to maintain.

Other high rises do it, but it is costly and could make it harder for developers to sell units.

“That’s why Florida just passed this law. It does not require a maintenance manual and a maintenance program for that very reason,” Rauch said. “The developers are very powerful. They have a big voice in the Legislature. And that’s the problem. But this issue is going to continue to repeat.”

The new law said condos must have sufficient reserve funding on hand to make necessary repairs.

The associations would also have to give inspection and safety records to prospective buyers and renters.

The investigation into the cause of the collapse will conclude in 2024.

Until then, Rauch said he is looking for new laws that will help prevent such a tragedy from happening in the future.


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