BOCA RATON — Since the Surfside condo collapse in June, the CBS12 News I Team has been following efforts to protect people living in high-rises and how strict new inspections- like those now on the books in Boca Raton - could change life in South Florida condo towers.

Boca was first, but other towns, cities and counties are working on their own new safety rules, rules that have management companies, condo boards and residents butting heads over what needs to be done and how much it might cost.

Residents on a fixed or limited income are terrified they might lose their homes.

“We all want a beautiful place in which to live, but we need to prioritize, and what Surfside taught us was, engineering and repairs first, aesthetics second,” Fred Hadley told the I Team.

Hadley lives in Century Village, west of Boca Raton.

Thirteen years ago, when he moved in, Hadley was charmed by community living, the pools, and tennis courts.

He still loves those amenities, but right now he’s mad, because he says condo management is not preparing for the detailed safety inspections – and likely mandatory repairs – which are certainly coming in the wake of the tragedy in Surfside.

For instance, Fred points to the flower beds in front of his building on Cornwall Drive.

They’re beautiful, he admits, but they cost thousands of dollars a year to keep up.

Last month, Hadley suggested the condo board use that money to hire an expert to assess whether their cash reserves are sufficient to pay for repairs that might be needed.

“And it was shot down. The President of our Association turned to the Community’s Manager and said, ‘Do we need to do this? How are our reserves?’ And the community association manager, who is not a licensed reserve specialist said, ‘The reserves inside Century Village are in fine shape,’ and he’s not qualified to make that determination and nor am I, nor is the board of directors, nor is the management company who works for us, only a person licensed by the State of Florida can say for sure.”

Fred knows Palm Beach County officials are in talks to require re-inspections every 10 years for buildings built before 1982, like many in Century Village.

If inspectors find problems that need to be fixed right away, that means money in a hurry.

“The people at Champlain Towers South were hit with a 38 thousand per unit- special assessment- which is a serious impact for people living in a ritzy oceanfront property, it would be a disaster here.” Hadley said.

A disaster for folks like Joan Johnson.

“And what amount are they going to assess us for?” Johnson asks.

Joan lives in one of the other 5,700 units in Century Village.

Many of those that live here, like Joan, are retired and have to be careful with their finances.

A special assessment could easily climb into the thousands and, if it does, Joan says she’d have to leave the condo she’s called home for 13 years.

“Well I guess I’ll be moving. That’s a lot of money,” Johnson said.

Joan pays about $600 a month in condo fees. Some of that goes to the recreational facilities, some to building maintenance.

After Surfside, Joan wants to know exactly what goes where and she says for a few months, the recreational budget could go on the back burner.

“Only to fix what’s absolutely necessary, I mean these buildings are 40 years old," Johnson said.

Within Century Village, there are 16 associations among the more than 100 buildings.

Fred and Joan’s association isn’t doing a reserve study, but others in the community are. And some might impose special assessments, some might not.

“Some people will say, if they’re doing it, why aren’t we?” The A word, ‘assessment’ is always a dirty word in condos and co-ops because it seems to point to poor planning, sweeping things under the rug, putting off til tomorrow what you should have done today,” Hadley said.

The good news is, Century Village isn’t anywhere near the ocean, so the buildings here likely won’t have the same degree of corrosion as the condo in Surfside. But that doesn’t mean there won’t be problems that need fixing after 40 plus years.

Last month in Miami, an 8 story building was deemed unsafe and had to be evacuated. It’s near the Miami airport- more than 6 miles from the ocean.

Fred tells the I-Team, some associations in Century Village have ordered field survey reports. The same kind of detailed engineering inspection Champlain Towers South had done in 2018.

That doomed building ultimately delayed the recommendations for repairs in that report- they thought there was more time, but Fred says that information by itself is only one piece of the puzzle.

“We don’t know that we have the funds unless we hire a licensed reserve specialist,” Hadley said.

And Fred says he and his neighbors deserve to know what’s coming, so they can prepare to pony up the money or find somewhere new to live.