Friday, September 23, 2022

Champlain Towers South Collapse - The Aftermath (Milestone Inspections and Structural Integrity Reserve Studies)

On June 24, 2021, at approximately 1:22 a.m. EDT, Champlain Towers South, a 12-story beachfront condominium in the Miami Beach suburb of Surfside, Florida, United States, partially collapsed. Ninety-eight people died. Four people were rescued from the rubble, but one died of injuries shortly after arriving at the hospital.


In the aftermath of this horrific tragedy, the State of Florida has responded by passing Chapter 553 Section 899 of the 2022 Florida Statutes ( mandating what are referred to as “Milestone Inspections” targeting the structural integrity and safety of condominiums and cooperatives of 3 stories or more and 30 years or older. If the building is located within 3 miles of coastline, the age threshold is 25 years or older. Also, the Milestone Inspection must be conducted every 10 years after the building’s 30th birthday ( every 7 years after the building’s 25th birthday if within 3 miles of coastline).

When does it take effect?: December 31, 2022

Are milestone inspections required for all buildings in Florida three (3) stories or more in height?

a. Milestone inspections must be performed by December 31 of the year the building reaches 30 years in age, based on the issue date of the building’s certificate of occupancy, and every ten years after that.

b. Buildings within 3 miles of the coastline must perform a milestone inspection by December 31 of the year they reach 25 years in age and every seven years after that.

4. When has the State required the milestone inspections to begin?

a. Buildings with a certificate of occupancy issued on or before July 1, 1992, must have the initial milestone inspection performed before December 31, 2024.

b. All others follow the year based on the issue date of the building’s certificate of occupancy mentioned in question 3. 

5. Who is responsible for the cost of the milestone inspection?

a. Condominium and cooperative associations are responsible for the scheduling and costs associated with the milestone inspection.

6. What type of inspection takes place in the milestone inspection?

a. Milestone inspection means a structural inspection of a building’s primary structural systems.

7. Who can perform the milestone inspection?

a. Milestone inspections must be performed by a Florida licensed engineer/architect who must attest to the life safety and adequacy of structural components of the building.

8. What should be determined in the milestone inspection?

a. To the extent that it’s reasonably possible, the inspection must determine the general structural condition of the building as it affects the safety of the building, such as necessary maintenance, repairs, and replacements of structural components.

b. “Substantial structural deterioration” is described as substantial structural distress that negatively affects the building’s general structural condition and integrity.

9. How many phases does a milestone inspection consist of?

a. Milestone inspections will consist of two (2) phases.

10. What is Phase 1 of the Milestone Inspection?

a. A visual examination of habitable and non-habitable areas of a building. If no signs of structural deterioration are found, phase two is not required.

11. What is Phase 2 of the Milestone Inspection?

a. If substantial deterioration is found during phase one, phase two may involve destructive or non-destructive testing at the inspector’s discretion. This additional inspection may be as extensive or limited as necessary to fully assess areas of distress.

12. What should the building owners do once the milestone inspection report is completed?

a. Architect/engineer who performed inspections must submit a sealed copy of the inspection report and findings to the association and appropriate local building official.

13. Will an association be advised when a milestone inspection should occur?

a. Local enforcement agencies will provide buildings required to comply with this law notice of required inspection by certified mail.

14. Once notice is received, how long does a building have to comply?

a. Upon receiving notice, condominium/cooperative associations will have 180 days to complete phase one of the inspection.

15. Who is responsible if an inspection was not performed and repairs were not made?

a. Associations that fail to complete the mandatory Milestone Inspection will breach the officers’ and directors’ fiduciary relationship to the unit owners.

Also, the state will now be requiring the preparation and distribution of Structural Integrity Reserve Studies (SIRS).

Here are some common questions about the newly instituted Florida Structural Integrity Reserve Studies:

1. Who must complete a Structural Integrity Reserve Study?

a. Must be completed for buildings three (3) stories or higher in height every ten years and completed by December 31, 2024, for associations existing on or before July 1, 2022, which unit owners control.

2. Are developers required to perform this study?

a. Developers must perform this study before turning the association over to unit owners.

3. Who can perform the reserve study?

a. May be performed by any person qualified to perform such study. However, the visual inspection portion of the study must be performed by a licensed engineer/architect.

4. What should the Structural Reserve Study Include?

a. Must identify the common areas being visually inspected, state the remaining expected useful life and replacement costs, and provide a recommended annual reserve amount that achieves the replacement or deferred maintenance costs of elements being visually inspected by the end of remaining useful life.

b. Regarding reserves, the amount reserved for an item will be determined by the most recent structural integrity reserve study.

5. Can an Association waive Reserves?

a. Effective December 31, 2024, members may not vote to waive reserves, provide less reserves, or use reserves for any purpose other than their intended purpose for the following items:

i. Roof

ii. Load-bearing walls or other primary structural members

iii. Floor

iv. Foundation

v. Fireproofing and fire protection systems

vi. Plumbing

vii. Electrical systems

viii. Waterproofing and exterior painting

ix. Windows

x. Any other items requiring replacement/repair costs that exceed $10,000 and the failure to replace or maintain the item negatively affects the above items as determined by a licensed engineer/architect

6. Will a Developer be able to Waive Reserves?

a. Developer-controlled associations may not vote to waive reserves or reduce funding of the reserves.

7. Who could get in trouble if reserves are not collected?

a. Associations that fail to complete a structural reserve study will breach the officers’ and directors’ fiduciary relationship to the unit owners.

8. Who can receive and review the study?

a. A copy of this study is considered an official record, is open to inspection by association members/authorized representatives, and must be kept by the association for 15 years.

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