40 Year Safety Inspections: What We Are Doing At The State & Local Level

By Hallandale Beach Mayor, Joy Cooper

November 18, 2021

A task force recently met in South Florida. Miami-Dade County had a task force as well, the Florida Bar and Board of Rules and Appeals have all convened to evaluate what policies could be changed to improve building safety.

Last week I had the opportunity to host a meeting to discuss what cities can do in light of Broward County’s recommendations to address the 40 Year Safety Inspection Program. The task force established by Mayor Steve Geller had a chance to work alongside State Representatives Gottlieb, LaMarca, Senator Book, engineers, condo board members, property managers, attorneys and other elected officials.

Our group was not the only group that met in South Florida. Miami-Dade County had a task force, the Florida Bar and Board of Rules and Appeals have all convened to evaluate what policies could be changed to improve building safety. All these recommendations are headed to Tallahassee where we are all hoping that the laws will be adopted to address building inspections and regulations governing condominiums. The big question is, do they have the political will to make changes?

I invited Hollywood City Commissioner Caryl Schumann who also served on the county's task force to our city to discuss next steps. Her Building Official and Director of Development Services joined with our Building Official Jackson, Director LeRoy, City Manager Earle, Assistant City Manager Ragunoon, Commissioner Anabelle Taub and Vice Mayor Butler to discuss the county's recommendations but to specifically see what policies and municipalities may be able to adopt in the case that the state does not make any changes.

One big change is not waiting every 10 years for building inspections. Right now, it is 40 and 50. This is a very long time for buildings particularly along the coast. In many cases buildings also do not perform regular maintenance and put off repairs since they are not done.

Hollywood has already reached out to the Board of Rules and Appeals who said they can do 5 but still must follow BORA's 10 year. Hollywood’s philosophy I believe is sound since it will not matter what they need to do in ten years on a building, which coincides with every 5 years. While buildings will have an added cost of inspection their residents and the city will have more ability to make sure the building is safe.

We also spoke about how to address what has been dubbed as “engineer shopping." This is where a building hires an engineer but does not like the report that was delivered. It may be more conservative and the work requires more than the building wants to pay for in repairs. They hire another engineer in hopes that it comes in with less rigid requirements to do those repairs. The concern is as a City without the reports we can only take the one that is submitted and sealed. Which one is right? The answer is both so long as they are both sealed by an engineer.

Both staffs will be researching this, but the consensus was requiring every report to be submitted and may subject cities to more liability. It was discussed that we can post the state specialists lists that show who the licensed engineers are in the state. Architects cannot submit safety reports; they must be licensed in engineering and electrical specialties.

The other item that came up is the utilization of our Code Enforcement Departments. Hollywood is developing a self-inspection model. Condos are being encouraged to perform an annual visual inspection. This is in line with the County Task Force recommendations that each building does reserved studies and funds them. It also ties to the recommendation that condo managers must report concerns to the cities and condo owners. In addition, I preferred the idea that the board of Rules and Appeals Checklist must be sent out to every condo along with every unit owner's tax bill.

One issue that we heard about were extension requests. BORA is frowning on them. They believe that condos have had plenty of time to get the inspections done. They are ending up in the special magistrate's courts and fines are being levied at $1,000 dollars a day.

The meeting was both informative and useful to move forward with it. Our Staff will be working on these ideas and suggestions. I will continue to update our readers when changes are made.

With COVID-19, it has still been a bit hard to make holiday plans.

There will not be an annual Turkey Giveaway at the Cheetah that is also hosted by Rodriguez Charities. They are still spreading the cheer. Mr. Rodriguez has graciously donated money toward a Thanksgiving Give Away for those families in need at our local schools and for our “Drive By Turkey Dinner” at the Hepburn Center. For more information visit our web-site.

PAL will be doing Shop With COP and I along with many sponsors including sponsors from the City of Dania will be doing Hope for The Holidays. These events are both by invitation only. We gather names from our local schools and PAL to ensure that the neediest are served.

I would like to wish everyone a blessed Holiday Season!

As always, I am available anytime for your questions, concerns and ideas to make our City a better place, on my Phone/Text at: (954) 632-5700. Or you can E-mail me at: jcooper@cohb.org. Please visit my Facebook Page: MayorJoyCooper. Like It! Friend It! Share It!