Treasure Coast governments should be ready to fill void on condo regulation | Our View

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Tony Lennie, president of the Barclay Beach Club condominium board in Fort Pierce, said a mouthful recently.

"A lot of the people who live in condominiums in Florida are there for a good time, they're not there for a long time," Lennie told TCPalm reporter Sydney Czyzon. "They're kind of hoping they can maybe get out before ... the real expenses come due."

Unfortunately, Lennie is spot on. Many condominium buyers in Florida, including the Treasure Coast, aren't really interested in spending a lot of money on long-term repairs and maintenance issues.

They may have retired here, or they plan on moving from their condos elsewhere within a few years.

Which means potentially life-threatening problems could go ignored until it's too late to prevent a tragedy like the collapse of the Champlain Towers high-rise in Surfside, which killed nearly 100 people and left many others homeless.

Nearly 70 Treasure Coast oceanfront condos face some of the same problems that brought down Champlain Towers, according to Czyzon's review of construction permits and inspection reports from Jan. 1, 2019, through June 28, 2021.

Czyzon's research found permits for more than $11.7 million worth of work were pulled during that time frame, mostly to repair deteriorating concrete.

Surfside condo collapse: Before the tragedy, Treasure Coast condos saw similar problems

Our View: Surfside: Could regular inspections prevent another tragic condominium collapse

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Dr. Alison Thompson, with the search and rescue team, prays at the Surfside Wall of Hope and Memorial near the site of the Champlain Towers South building collapse in Surfside, Fla., on Friday, July 2, 2021. "I feel like we're standing in the gates of September 11th, the gates of hell all over again but this time we can't find the door in," said Thompson, who also worked on the search and rescue team after the 9/11 World Trade Center attack. "We just want to find the stolen lives of Miami." Search and rescue efforts continue into the second week.
Dr. Alison Thompson, with the search and rescue team, prays at the Surfside Wall of Hope and Memorial near the site of the Champlain Towers South building collapse in Surfside, Fla., on Friday, July 2, 2021. "I feel like we're standing in the gates of September 11th, the gates of hell all over again but this time we can't find the door in," said Thompson, who also worked on the search and rescue team after the 9/11 World Trade Center attack. "We just want to find the stolen lives of Miami." Search and rescue efforts continue into the second week.

As far as building officials in our three-county region know, no Treasure Coast oceanfront condos are on the brink of collapse. But repairs may still be needed to prevent damaged buildings from reaching that point.

For condo dwellers, particularly those living near the ocean where salty water and wind can accelerate the corrosion of building materials, that's probably not welcome news.

In a few cases uncovered in Czyzon's investigation, the cost of repairs for damaged condominium complexes was approaching $1 million.

Paying for those types of repairs in addition to their standard maintenance fees can be a tall order, even for those able to afford upscale waterfront housing.

Although state law says condominium associations should have reserve funds to cover the costs of repair projects, the law also allows condo boards to waive that requirement, which many of them do.

July 9, 2021, Surfside FL, USA; Miami-Dade Fire Rescue Chief Alan Cominsky addresses the media in an afternoon press briefing on Friday, July 9, 2021. One more victim has been found in the rubble of the Champlain Towers South bringing the death toll to 79 with 61 still missing.Mandatory Credit: Patrick Dove/Treasure Coast News via USA Today NETWORK
July 9, 2021, Surfside FL, USA; Miami-Dade Fire Rescue Chief Alan Cominsky addresses the media in an afternoon press briefing on Friday, July 9, 2021. One more victim has been found in the rubble of the Champlain Towers South bringing the death toll to 79 with 61 still missing.Mandatory Credit: Patrick Dove/Treasure Coast News via USA Today NETWORK

You'd think the state Legislature should be spurred into action by the Champlain Towers tragedy and adopt reforms to condominium regulations.

For starters, legislators could follow a task force's recommendations to have mandatory structural inspections for larger condos 30 years after first occupancy, with re-inspections required every 10 years.

The task force also recommended buildings more vulnerable to steel corrosion (within three miles of saltwater sources) should have their first recertification inspections 20 years after first occupancy, with re-inspections required every 7 years afterward.

The cost of those inspections should be the responsibility of the condominium owners, and the inspection reports should be public records. That way, prospective buyers and local governments that have to respond to emergencies would have an idea what's going on.

Reports also should be sent to condominiums' insurance carriers, which would make it more likely needed repairs are made in a timely fashion.

If that drives up the cost of oceanfront condo living, so be it. Other taxpayers shouldn't have to subsidize living costs for those who choose to live in beautiful but potentially dangerous areas.

We've said all that before. However, if the Legislature doesn't take action, or its actions fall short of the measures needed, then city and county governments should stand ready to fill the void with local regulations.

Let's make sure the next national news headlines about a condo building collapse aren't made on the Treasure Coast.

Editorials published by TCPalm/Treasure Coast Newspapers are decided collectively by its editorial board. To respond to this editorial with a letter to the editor, email up to 300 words to TCNLetters@TCPalm.com.

This article originally appeared on Treasure Coast Newspapers: Could Treasure Coast condominiums face Surfside-like tragedy? | Our View