By Mary Hladky
In the wake of the horrific Surfside condo collapse, Boca Raton is moving rapidly to enact rules that would require aging buildings to be inspected for safety.
Mayor Scott Singer said that rules will be discussed at the City Council’s next meeting on July 27 and could be enacted in August.
Singer and city staff envision tougher standards than those in place in Miami-Dade County, where licensed engineers or architects must certify a building’s safety or document needed repairs after it turns 40, and then every 10 years after that, to meet recertification standards.
Specifics are being hammered out, but Singer said the city doesn’t want to wait until a building is 40 years old to inspect it and start any needed repairs.
“By putting in recertification standards, we can provide greater protection and safeguards for the residents than what we already have,” Singer said on June 29.
Officials in other cities and the county also are considering similar actions, and Singer expects that building safety regulations could be done regionally or statewide.
But since the state Legislature won’t be in session again until next year, “I thought it was important to move now,” he said.
Miami-Dade created the 40-year recertification requirement in 1974 after the collapse of a 30-year-old office building in downtown Miami that killed seven people. Broward County adopted similar rules in 2005.
Palm Beach County, however, never followed suit. It’s up to condominium boards to make sure their buildings are adequately maintained. In Boca, Singer said the La Fontana condo at 2003 N. Ocean Blvd. is nearing completion of a very costly restoration.
Yet the decision to begin expensive repairs can be fraught, with some condo owners resisting projects that will require paying hefty special assessments.
The board of Surfside’s Champlain Towers South first learned their building needed extensive repairs in 2018. Although its board levied special assessments and arranged financing, work had just begun when it collapsed in the middle of the night on June 24 as many of its residents were sleeping.
The project cost had risen from $9 million in 2018 to $15 million before the collapse, the Miami Herald has reported.
But the scope of the tragedy has pushed Miami-Dade leaders to toughen standards even more. For example, Miami Beach has begun visual inspections of the 507 buildings in the city that require 40-year recertification, according to the Herald.
An analysis done by The Coastal Star of Palm Beach County property records shows 73 condos or co-ops are located on the barrier island in Boca Raton. Of these, 56 were built before 1982.