New condo safety laws: Three things community associations should consider
Recently, Florida passed SB 4-D, a new safety regulation for condominium and cooperative association buildings. The new condo safety laws center around inspection requirements, mandatory reserves, and more transparency for unit owners and prospective unit owners on information regarding the condition of the buildings. For associations who have been waiving or partially funding their reserves, the new law may result in large budgetary increases and create a financial burden on unit owners.
The new legislation, SB 4-D, primarily focuses on the following requirements.
Mandatory building inspections
Building inspections are required for community buildings in all 67 counties in Florida that are three or more stories in height. This includes mandatory “milestone inspections” of structural integrity by an architect or engineer when a building turns 30 years old (or 25 years if located within three miles of a coastline) and every 10 years thereafter.
Structural integrity reserve study
Associations are required to complete a structural integrity reserve study every 10 years for each building in an association that is three stories or higher.
Adequately funded reserves
Effective December 31, 2024, no unit owner-controlled condominium or cooperative can vote to waive or partially fund the reserves. All community associations, regardless of size or location, must adequately fund reserves pursuant to the reserve study required.
Transparent inspection report results
Another requirement is mandatory transparency to unit owners. The inspection report results must be provided to local building officials and the association and requires an inspector-prepared summary to be provided to unit owners.
Community association decision-makers should consider these three questions as Florida’s new condo safety laws go into effect.
1. What should property managers or associations do now regarding the new condo safety laws?
At Popular Association Banking, we have been advising our clients to engage a structural engineer and a reserve study analyst as soon as they can. Such studies will help estimate the additional costs and the reserve amounts needed to meet the new condo safety laws. The demand for such projects is also likely to increase in the coming months.
With a better-defined estimate amount, associations can focus on developing a budget planning strategy to fund reserves without having to pass larger assessments to their members. Such planning will also help identify financial gaps and financial solutions to help address those.
2. What funding options are there to consider short-term?
Given the impact of these changes, it is important to communicate with your banking and financial partner early and often. And in those conversations, consider external factors that are outside of your control – inflation, rising costs of labor and supplies, as well as an anticipated spike in demand for the very services your association is considering.
In addition, the rates for insurance policies necessary to have in place have also been hardening. If you are faced with a sudden increase in expenses, consider talking to your financial partner about a bridge loan to fund reserves and alleviate the short-term financial burden which you put an updated fiscal plan in place.
3. What about the long-term financial strategy?
As SB 4-D takes shape, continue to plan for what is now expected. Make certain your association budget properly allocates funds for reserves, repairs, insurance, and other required expenses. And then develop contingency plans for the unexpected.
Consider contingency lines of credit as a lending option.
For example, consider discussing contingency lines of credit with your banker to help with potential expenses after a hurricane or a tropical storm that require immediate funding (structural damage, debris removal, etc.) We are seeing a lot of such projects going over budget, requiring additional labor and insurance; having a contingency line of credit in place can help alleviate a financial burden without the association having to take out a new loan.
Reexamine your financial priorities.
Revisiting your budget plans and working closely with your banker to address the association’s priorities and challenges will remain critical in the next few months. Your financial partner’s knowledge of available options and guiding you through them will offer peace of mind for property managers and for the unit owners going forward.
Popular Bank is the mainland subsidiary of Popular, Inc. (Nasdaq: BPOP), which ranks among the top 50 U.S. banks by assets. Popular, Inc. brings nearly 130 years of success in banking, driven by integrity and values. At Popular Bank, we leverage our financial expertise to enable customers to focus on what matters most. We have branches in New York, New Jersey, and Florida, and provide 24/7 digital banking solutions and access to 55,000 ATMs through the Allpoint network. Popular Bank and its affiliates are not affiliated with ATM National, LLC. Allpoint is a registered trademark of ATM National, LLC.
This article previously appeared in the South Florida Business Journal.