In response to the Surfside condo collapse, Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried held a press conference Friday to encourage the Legislature to update regulations for condominiums and establish a task force to examine said regulations to prevent future tragedies.
Fried also announced the steps being taken to address consumer and homeowner complaints through Florida’s Division of Consumer Services (FDCS), as well as their dedication to weed out fraudulent charities in relation to the condo collapse.
“We need to be focusing on what’s next,” Fried said. “Now we need to be looking at ways to fix this to make sure this never happens again… Putting together a statewide task force would allow us to bring resources from across the entire state to examine the issues of the past.”
Fried then mentioned the task forces established by realtors in Florida and The Florida Bar and asserts that Governor DeSantis needs “to do the same.”
As reported by The Florida Capital Star, The Florida Bar’s task force will aid the Florida Legislature and Governor DeSantis by reviewing “all aspects of Florida condominium law, development, association operations, and maintenance,” to determine if changes are needed to “minimize the likelihood of a similar tragedy.”
Even with the formation of The Florida Bar’s task force that works directly with DeSantis, Fried still insinuates that a separate task force backed by the legislature is necessary to analyze and change past legislation. She cited the repeal of SB 1196 in 2010 that, according to The Capital Star, did away with a requirement for condo associations to hire engineers or architects to submit reports every five years about how much it would cost to keep up with repairs.
The Capital Star also included a report from NBC that said a year before the collapse, “the Champlain Towers South Condominium Association began a desperate search for $16.2 million to fix major structural damage that was slowly threatening the Surfside high-rise.” At the time, the condo board documents indicated the association had only $770,000 in reserves.
As Fried waits for Governor DeSantis’ response, she announced the FDCS consumer hotline for homeowners to file complaints against their homeowners associations or condominium boards in charge of regulating funds needed for repairs. She also announced the “Check-a-Charity” tool that is meant to eliminate fraudulent charities associated with the condo collapse.
The written statement from Fried on FDCS’s website states, “We want everyone to know that FDACS is here for you, and we’ve begun dedicated tracking of condo and HOA-related consumer calls. With the outpouring of support as families heal, we want to prevent bad actors from taking advantage of generosity, so we encourage everyone to give safely with our Check-a-Charity tool on our website. Floridians come together after tragedies, and together, we will look ahead to save lives and make communities safer.”
Casey Owens is a contributing writer for The Florida Capital Star. Follow him on Twitter at @cowensreports. Email tips to [email protected]
Photo “Nikki Fried” by Florida Dept. of Agriculture (via Facebook).