By Anita Byer, Setnor Byer Insurance & Risk
Florida enacted a new “milestone inspection” requirement for condominium associations to ensure aging buildings remain safe for continued use. The hope is that a statewide mandatory structural inspection requirement will prevent a repeat of last year’s tragic collapse in Surfside, Florida. Here are five things every condominium association board member needs to know about Florida’s new milestone inspection requirement.
1. What is a milestone inspection? A “milestone inspection” is a structural inspection of a building, including its load-bearing walls and primary structural systems, by a licensed architect or engineer. Its purpose is to confirm the life safety and adequacy of the building’s structural components and determine its general structural condition as it affects building safety. A milestone inspection should include, to the extent reasonably possible, a determination of any necessary maintenance, repair or replacement of any structural component of the building.
2. When is a milestone inspection required? Condominium associations must have milestone inspections performed for each building that is three stories or more in height by December 31 of the year in which the building reaches 30 years of age, and every 10 years thereafter. If the building is located within three miles of a coastline (direct contact with the open sea), a milestone inspection is required by December 31 of the year in which the building reaches 25 years of age, and every 10 years thereafter. A building’s age is based on the date the certificate of occupancy was issued.
Note that if a milestone inspection is required and the building’s certificate of occupancy was issued on or before July 1, 1992, the building’s initial milestone inspection must be performed before December 31, 2024.
3. What is a phase one milestone inspection? A milestone inspection consists of two phases. For phase one, a licensed architect or engineer performs a visual examination of a building, including its major structural components, and provides a qualitative assessment of the building’s structural condition. If no signs of substantial structural deterioration are found, then a phase two inspection is not required. “Substantial structural deterioration” means substantial structural distress that negatively affects a building’s general structural condition and integrity. It does not include surface imperfections (cracks, sagging, signs of leakage, peeling of finishes, etc.) unless they are a sign of substantial structural deterioration.
4. When is a phase two milestone inspection required? A phase two milestone inspection must be performed if any substantial structural deterioration is identified during phase one. The inspection may be as extensive or as limited as necessary to fully assess areas of structural distress in order to confirm that the building is structurally sound and safe for its intended use and to recommend a program for fully assessing and repairing distressed and damaged portions of the building. The phase two inspection may involve destructive testing at the inspector’s direction, though preference must be given to locations that are the least disruptive and most easily repairable.
5. What happens after a milestone inspection? Upon completion of a phase one or phase two milestone inspection, the architect or engineer must submit a sealed copy of the inspection report to the condominium association, along with a separate summary of material findings and recommendations. A copy must also be furnished to the appropriate local building authority. The inspection report must include all the information required by the statute. Condominium associations must then distribute the inspector’s summary to each unit owner and post a copy in a conspicuous place on the condominium property. Associations required to maintain a website must also make the full report and the inspector’s summary available online.
The new law makes each condominium association responsible for arranging milestone inspections and ensuring compliance with the law’s requirements. Associations are also responsible for all costs associated with the inspection. Since this is a new requirement, condominium associations are strongly encouraged to consult with licensed professionals to avoid unintentional violations. Board members should also review their association’s Directors and Officers (D&O) insurance policy to confirm sufficient coverage. Because when it comes to safety, there’s no room for error.
Setnor Byer Insurance & Risk can help condominium associations and board members identify, manage and insure their unique risks. Please contact our team to discuss the various risk management services we provide our condominium association clients, including our Division-Approved New Board Member Education.