This Repealed Florida Law Could Have Prevented the Miami Condo Collapse
When Champlain Towers of Miami collapsed on June 24, the question on everyone's minds was, "What could've prevented this?" While the precise cause of the devastating structural failure still is not known, evidence indicates that poor maintenance might have been at fault. It turns out that a recently repealed law could've saved many lives.
Deadly Condo Collapse Is Linked to a Lack of Repairs
When Champlain Towers South collapsed late at night, the nation was shocked. The building looked perfectly fine beforehand, and there were no hurricanes, earthquakes, or other natural disasters that could have caused issues. As layers of concrete instantly crumpled to the ground, hundreds were injured or killed. The death count currently stands at 60, but with over 80 others still missing, it is likely to rise.
In the days since the disaster, it has been revealed that the condo tower was in very poor condition. There is some speculation that heavy construction equipment set on concrete weakened by salt exposure may have been behind the collapse, but it's hard to tell. The only thing inspectors are sure of is that the building was damaged and the condo owners knew about it in advance.
The high rise condo was built in 1981, and since then, it has undergone a lot of wear and tear. Since the 1990s, reports have shown parts of the building were sinking at an abnormal rate. Last year, the condo association began to raise $16.2 million for structural repairs, but were slow to get the money and start the repairs. Days before the collapse, workers reported seeing cracks begin to develop in support walls and columns.
A Repealed 2008 Law Could Have Required Repairs Sooner
It turns out that an older law could have noticed the need for repairs more quickly. In 2008, Republican state legislator Julio Robaina sponsored a law that required condo associations to get a reserve study done every five years. This type of study involves engineers assessing a building and telling the owners how much money it would cost to repair any issues.
If this law was still in effect, Champlain Towers would have been aware of the issues and would have had years to save up for the fixes. Unfortunately, the law was repealed in 2010, and the condo hadn't had a reserve study in years. Robaina explains that the law was repealed right after he left office. Real estate lawyers and property managers disliked the law because condo owners had to pay for more maintenance, and Republican legislator Gary Aubuchon pushed for a repeal.
The Reason Florida's Condo Safety Laws Are So Lax
The repeal of the 2008 law mandating regular inspections is just one of many examples of lax condo safety laws. Florida does have laws requiring condos to keep some money saved for repairs, but buildings only need $10,000. Furthermore, building owners have the legal right to vote against saving for essential repairs. Since most condo owners dislike paying fees, they tend to avoid saving up funds for future issues. This lack of regulation left Champlain Towers without the funds needed to quickly perform essential repairs.
There are several factors that contribute to these loose laws. Since the 1920s, Florida has essentially been a boom town, with developers constantly building more and more vacation homes. The state's legislature has remained focused on promoting the state's economy and tourism, so they are wary of laws that would cause stress and expenses for homeowners. Condos are especially notable for a lack of oversight, since the buildings are technically run by the homeowners. Unfortunately, condo boards of homeowners often lack the background and expertise needed to maintain such a large building. This leads to an environment of unqualified and unregulated people overseeing large structures. Unfortunately, cases like the Champlain Towers collapse show just how dangerous this can be.
More Regulation May Be Required in the Future
Ultimately, there's no way to tell if the repealed law could have entirely prevented the disaster. However, it does seem likely that legal oversights contributed to the lack of repairs at Champlain Towers South. In the wake of the disaster, many older buildings have already made plans to assess their structural stability, and some are pushing for laws to require stricter safety regulations. In the next few years, it is likely that the disaster may lead to more laws on maintaining and monitoring old buildings.