Surfside condo collapse

Condos Should Have Frequent Inspections, Panel Says in Report on Surfside Collapse

Champlain Towers South, built in 1981, collapsed June 24 as its 40-year recertification was due.

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A Florida grand jury issued a lengthy list of recommendations Wednesday aimed at preventing another condominium collapse like the one that killed 98 people in Surfside back in June, including earlier and more frequent inspections and better waterproofing.

In its report on the Surfside collapse, the Miami-Dade County Grand Jury called on state and local officials to require condominium towers to have an initial recertification inspection by an engineer between 10 and 15 years after their construction and every 10 years thereafter. Currently, Miami-Dade and neighboring Broward County require inspections at 40 years. Other Florida counties have no requirement.

“The truth is, it could happen again," said Martin Langesfeld, whose sister Nicky and brother-in-law Luis Sadnovic died in the collapse. "And things and laws need to change so it doesn’t happen again for the safety of your family, my family, and everyone around us.”

Champlain Towers South, built in 1981, collapsed June 24 as its 40-year recertification was due. No cause of the collapse has been determined, but records show the building had significant structural damage in its underground parking garage. An engineer had already concluded that $15 million of repairs would be required to bring it up to code. Some of the damage at the oceanside building is believed to have come from saltwater in the air.

“I am completely on their side with dropping the 40-year recertification," Langesfeld said. "Forty years is extremely long.”

The grand jury report laments that the state repealed a requirement imposed in 2008 requiring that all condo towers bigger than three stories be inspected every five years. The requirement was repealed two years after it was imposed because it was deemed too costly.

“In hindsight, it would appear the Legislature's repeal of that statute was a huge mistake!” the report says.

Other recommendations include:

— Requiring that condo towers be repainted and waterproofed every 10 years to prevent corrosion.

— Having local governments increase the size of their building departments, including by hiring more inspectors.

— Suspending for at least a year the licenses of engineers and architects who submit false or misleading recertification reports and barring their employers from doing such inspections for the same period. Requiring that a second offense result in a license revocation.

— Requiring architects and engineers who find severe structural damage during an inspection to report it to local officials within 24 hours and not just to the condo board.

— Requiring condo board owners to take courses on their role in overseeing building maintenance and effectively managing a building's finances.

“We are pleased that the Grand Jury’s report includes several recommendations the County has already made and proposals we’re working with policymakers at all levels to advance," Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said in a statement in part.

Surfside commissioner Eliana Salzhauer said the town took the first step in shortening its recertification requirement to 30 years on Tuesday night.

“I want to go all the way with this," Salzhauer said. "I think we owe to the survivors, to the ones who lost loved ones to make some serious changes.”

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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