By Anita Byer, Setnor Byer Insurance & Risk
Florida condominium associations are now required to complete a structural integrity reserve study for buildings that are three or more stories high. This new requirement was enacted during a special legislative session in response to last year’s Champlain Towers collapse in Surfside, Florida. The hope is that structural integrity reserve studies, coupled with Florida’s new milestone inspection requirement, will ensure aging buildings remain safe for continued use.
Structural integrity reserve studies must be completed at least every 10 years for each building on the condominium property that is three or more stories high. The deadline for existing associations to complete their initial structural integrity reserve study is December 31, 2024. The failure to complete the study as required by law is considered a breach of the board’s fiduciary duty.
So, what exactly is a structural integrity reserve study? It’s a study of the reserve funds that will be needed for future major repairs and replacement of the common areas based on a visual inspection. The visual inspection portion of the study must be performed by a Florida-licensed engineer or architect and must:
- identify the common areas being visually inspected;
- state the estimated remaining useful life and the estimated replacement cost or deferred maintenance expense of the common areas being visually inspected; and
- provide a recommended annual reserve amount that achieves the estimated replacement cost or deferred maintenance expense of each common area being visually inspected by the end of the estimated remaining useful life of each common area.
The study must include the following items as they relate to the structural integrity and safety of the building.
- Roof, floor, windows and foundation
- Load-bearing walls or other primary structural members
- Fireproofing and fire protection systems
- Plumbing and electrical systems
- Waterproofing and exterior painting
- Any other item that has a deferred maintenance expense or replacement cost that exceeds $10,000 and the failure to replace or maintain such item negatively affects any of the foregoing items, as determined by the licensed engineer or architect performing the visual inspection portion of the study.
The new law makes it difficult for associations to avoid their obligation to maintain the structural integrity of buildings that are three or more stories high. For example, developers must complete a study before control of the association can be turned over to unit owners. And, beginning December 31, 2024, unit-owner controlled associations will not be able to vote to use reserve funds that are allocated to structural integrity for any other purpose.
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. 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.