Surfside condo collapse

One Year After Surfside Collapse, Lawmakers Reflect on Changes

Many local governments and Florida lawmakers made major changes after 98 people died in the Surfside collapse of Champlain Towers South condo building

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In the coming years, major changes will take effect when it comes to condo rules and regulations. Many local governments and Florida lawmakers made major changes after 98 people died in the Surfside collapse of Champlain Towers South condo building.

When Martin Langesfeld visits the site of the collapse and walks around the makeshift memorial he thinks of his older sister and brother-in-law who died in their sleep.

"Here you can see how many people were in the building. When you see the names, it doesn’t seem real. To see the names, the ages," Langesfeld said.

The Langesfeld family were key advocates for change.

One year ago, the NBC 6 Investigators revealed the Champlain Towers South had less than $1 million in funding reserves but had around $15 million in needed repairs, according to engineers hired by the condo association.

During the regular legislative session lawmakers could not agree on how fast condo associations needed to have money in reserves. But after backlash from family members and an avalanche of headlines about how they failed to pass reforms, lawmakers returned to the capitol in a special session with a deal in hand.

"Unfortunately, we had to put the pressure on as family members. Put the grief aside and fight," Langesfeld said.

So now Florida law requires a structural inspection every 30 years – unless that building is within three miles of the coast, then it’s 25 years. Associations have to do a re-inspection every ten years after that.

Families and local officials gathered at the chain-link fence surrounding the vacant lot where Champlain Towers South once stood for the unveiling of temporary banners adorned with the victims' names and ages under the heading "Fathers, Mothers, Sons, Daughters, Brothers, Sisters.”

Associations must also do a "reserve study" which tabulates how much money they need to set aside to pay for future repairs. They must collect those funds from owners by the end of 2024, which worried some lawmakers about straining people on fixed incomes.

"The major hurdle was the concern over the financial impact that a bill like this is going to have on condominium owners. And I will never run from that," said Rep. Daniel Perez, R-Miami. "That is something that is a reality."

Perez sponsored the changes in the Florida House and was able to convince Florida Senators to come over to his thinking.

"There are lives at risk. The value of a life doesn’t exist. So, it doesn’t matter what the fiscal is. Reserves for structural integrity components have to be collected because that’s the only way to maintain a building properly," Perez said.

Changes also happened on a local level. Miami-Dade County
Commissioners passed an ordinance aiming mostly at transparency.

"Far too often these condo associations have gone rogue,” Commissioner Rene Garcia said.

Garcia sponsored many of the changes at the county level.

Beginning next year, condo associations will have to publish their inspection reports and financial documents on a county website so residents and the general public can see them.

"I think what we discovered during Surfside is we didn’t have a clear transparent look and the residents didn’t have a clear transparent look at the finances and the building inspections of that association," Garcia said.

A year on from the collapse lawmakers delivered on major promises they made to families after the collapse.

"We know our family is never going to come back. But it is good to see that after so many months change is made and other families aren’t going to have to go through what we went through,” Langesfeld said.

More changes could still be coming. Commissioner Garcia told NBC 6 he wants the county election administrator to regulate condo association elections, describing them as small city governments which collect fees from the people who live there.

That debate will start in the weeks and months ahead.

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