The collapse of Champlain Towers in the early morning hours of June 24, 2021, is one of the deadliest structural engineering failures in U.S. history. The tragedy left nearly 100 people dead and sparked action to prevent similar disasters around the state.

The structural failure prompted a review of hundreds of older buildings. All evidence showed that there were concerns about the integrity of the building; the collapse was caused by faulty construction and deterioration. A major concern is that many other buildings across Florida were built during a similar period with similar designs, construction methods and materials.

Combined with the Florida climate — saltwater and dampness — inferior reinforced materials can destroy the integrity of even the sturdiest structures.

Naturally, Floridians throughout the state, especially communities in South Florida, began scrutinizing recertification requirements and whether cities, counties and the state should increase enforcement. The issue is figuring out what increased enforcement means in general and practical terms. Surprisingly, recertification of existing structures was not a state requirement but a Miami-Dade County creation enacted in 1974. Prior to this year, only Broward County followed Miami-Dade’s lead and enacted similar requirements in 2005.

Gabriel Coelho is special counsel at the Miami office of Ball Janik’s LLP, a law firm specializing in real estate and land use.

The Surfside collapse resulted in mounting pressure on Gov. Ron DeSantis and the Legislature to create statewide inspection mandates, increase regulation of condominium associations and building operators and raise reserve requirements.

Rescuers search for victims at a collapsed South Florida condo building Monday, July 5, 2021, in Surfside, Fla., after demolition crews set off a string of explosives that brought down the last of the Champlain Towers South building in a plume of dust on Sunday. A year later, a new condo safety law has gone into effect that requires condo boards to set aside reserves and conduct studies and inspections on building safety.

A year after Champlain, Florida finally began to address those concerns by passing Senate Bill 4D, which establishes new structural inspection requirements and inspection of reserve funds held by an association, including the requirement to use them only for their designated purpose. At 30 years old, an inspection must be conducted for each building three or more stories tall. It must be completed, again, every 10 years. If a building is less than three miles from the coast, the milestone inspection must be done at 25 years and again every 10 years.

Associations must also have a study conducted to examine the funds set aside for required repairs to maintain the structural integrity of a property.

While we have advised clients about several aspects of condominium maintenance and association practices for years, this new law has established specific legal requirements that require compliance. Failure to comply could bring serious legal and liability problems for an association.

Associations need to be prepared to navigate the new laws. This will mean increased assessments, reserves and hard decisions about how to fund long-neglected repairs. Moreover, structural repairs are naturally invasive, temporarily impacting the building aesthetic and potentially cutting off access to balconies and windows. Associations will also need to be wary of unlicensed contractors and/or engineers and ensure proper protocols are in place to monitor remediation work. Finally, associations should expect increased insurance premiums and out-of-pocket expenses related to inspections and monitors. While these are all changes intended to protect residents, it is not without cost, and high-rise residents will need to be prepared.