3 years after Surfside condo collapse, lawmakers hope changes to state law will prevent another tragedy

State Sen. Jason Pizzo will never forget the wreckage of the Surfside condo tower in June 2021, and is wondering what the state could do to make sure a similar collapse never happens again.

"I'm seeing a smoldering pile," he said. "I'm seeing angry, devastated fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, sons and daughters trying to get to the pile and being held back."

Monday marks three years since 98 people were killed when a large portion of the building came down during the early morning hours.

A memorial ceremony was held Monday, marking three years since the deadly collapse of a condo building in Surfside.

The state crafted a law that requires any three-story, 30-year-old condo, or 25 years if it's near saltwater, to be inspected for structural integrity by the end of this year, and then every ten years after that.

Condo boards then have a year to begin the necessary fixes.

"To characterize it, I guess, somewhat as a tough love measure, but when you go ten, 15, 20 years waiving reserves, you can't waive, saving for your kid's college education," Pizzo said. "You can't do that for your home either."

Records have to be stored with local governments.

The City of Tampa says it has 41 buildings whose first milestone inspections are due by the end of the year.

Fifteen are listed as having inspections submitted, but could still need repairs. Seven, like the Bayshore promenade condominiums and the Bayshore Diplomat, had inspections done and no repairs required. Another is still awaiting repairs.

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"We want people to be compliant," said City of Tampa Chief Building Official JC Hudgison. "So ideally, not having to chase after a condo that hasn't done it. So the ones that have, we appreciate it. We appreciate their diligence. Because they're protecting the people that are occupying those structures."

The city says six have started the process, but haven't sent reports.

Ciara Willis is an attorney who represents hundreds of condo associations from Sarasota to Pasco County, and says the biggest challenge groups are facing is how to raise the money to pay for inspections.

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Some have had to raise residential fees.

"Some of the older buildings are having to work on a lot of projects to get everything up to code and up to the standards that are being required, which is a good thing," said Willis. "But it's also difficult on the current owners."

The law also requires inspection reports to be published online, so that those who own units, or want to buy them, can find them in short order.

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"There was a lot of ‘hide the ball,’" said Pizzo. "There was a lot of cost-cutting and hiding of things. And now, it speaks for itself, and it needs to be produced and transparent."

The new law also opens the heads of condo associations to civil suits if structural inspections are not performed.

They will also require studies done every ten years on the future costs of making major repairs, and to fully fund those reserve funds.

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