Champlain Tower South Collapse + Rising Condo Association Dues

Hello, I’m Kevin Johnson, CEO and President of Century 21 Edge in Orlando, Florida. Today, I want to discuss an important and pressing issue that affects many current and prospective condo owners in Florida: the recent legislative changes in response to the tragic collapse of the Champlain Tower South condominium.

In June 2021, the Champlain Tower South in Surfside, Florida, partially collapsed, resulting in the tragic loss of 98 lives. This disaster was a wake-up call for the state, highlighting the critical issues of deferred maintenance and inadequate reserve funding that many condo associations had been grappling with for years. As a result, the Florida Legislature enacted stringent new laws aimed at ensuring the safety and structural integrity of condominium buildings across the state.

These legislative changes, while necessary, have significant implications for condo owners and associations. New requirements mandate regular structural integrity audits and fully funded reserve accounts, leading to increased dues and special assessments for many condo owners. This can be particularly challenging for those unprepared for the sudden rise in costs.

In this blog post, we’ll delve into the background of condo maintenance practices in Florida, the details of the Champlain Tower South tragedy, the subsequent legislative changes, and what these mean for condo owners today. My goal is to provide you with a clear understanding of these developments and help you navigate the complexities of condo ownership in Florida, ensuring you make informed decisions and avoid unexpected financial burdens.

Historical Context

To fully understand the recent changes in Florida’s condominium laws, it’s essential to look at the historical context of condo maintenance practices in the state. For many years, condo associations in Florida have faced significant challenges in maintaining their buildings, largely due to financial constraints and the preferences of condo owners to keep dues low. This has often resulted in deferred maintenance, which eventually led to severe structural issues.

Deferred Maintenance and Low Dues

Deferred maintenance has been a common practice among many condo associations in Florida. This means that necessary repairs and upgrades to the buildings were often postponed to avoid increasing monthly dues for owners. The primary reason for this was the desire to keep living costs as low as possible. Condo owners and boards frequently voted to waive or reduce reserve funding, which is meant to cover major repairs and maintenance.

The practice of underfunding reserves and delaying maintenance works is not unique to Florida, but it has been particularly prevalent here due to the state’s large number of older condominium buildings. According to experts, many condo associations have historically opted to “kick the can down the road,” hoping to manage maintenance issues as they arise rather than planning and funding them proactively.

Impact on Structural Integrity

Over time, this approach has had serious consequences. Deferred maintenance can lead to the deterioration of essential building components, such as structural supports, roofing, and waterproofing. When regular maintenance is neglected, minor issues can escalate into significant safety hazards, endangering the lives of residents and leading to costly emergency repairs​.

One of the most alarming cases of deferred maintenance leading to disaster was the Champlain Tower South collapse. Investigations revealed that the building had significant structural issues that were not addressed in a timely manner. The tragedy highlighted the critical need for regular maintenance and adequate funding for reserves to ensure the safety and integrity of condominium buildings.

Legislative Oversight and Historical Policies

Prior to the Champlain Tower South incident, Florida had some regulations in place for building safety, but they were often seen as insufficient. For example, the 40-year recertification process in Miami-Dade and Broward counties required older buildings to undergo inspections and necessary repairs every 40 years. However, this process was not enforced statewide and did not always prevent deferred maintenance.

Additionally, the ability of condo associations to waive reserve requirements allowed many buildings to operate with inadequate funding for future repairs. This policy created a short-term benefit of lower dues but posed long-term risks to the structural integrity of the buildings and the safety of their residents.

In Summary

The historical context of condo maintenance in Florida is marked by a tendency to defer essential repairs and underfund reserves, leading to significant safety risks and structural issues. The tragic collapse of Champlain Tower South served as a stark reminder of the dangers associated with deferred maintenance and inadequate funding. As we move forward, it is crucial for condo owners and associations to understand these historical practices and support legislative efforts aimed at ensuring the safety and longevity of condominium buildings in Florida.

By looking back at where we’ve been, we can better appreciate the importance of the recent legislative changes and the need for a proactive approach to condo maintenance.

Champlain Tower South: A Turning Point

On June 24, 2021, the Champlain Tower South condominium in Surfside, Florida, partially collapsed, leading to one of the most devastating structural failures in U.S. history. This tragic event resulted in the loss of 98 lives and caused widespread shock and grief, not only within the local community but also across the nation.

Background of Champlain Tower South

The Champlain Tower South was a 12-story beachfront condominium building constructed in 1981. Over the years, the building showed signs of wear and tear, which is typical for structures exposed to coastal elements like saltwater and high humidity. Despite these signs, essential maintenance and repairs were either deferred or inadequately addressed​.

In the years leading up to the collapse, residents and the condo board had been aware of structural issues. A 2018 engineering report highlighted “major structural damage” to the concrete slab beneath the pool deck and significant cracks and deterioration in the parking garage. However, the necessary repairs were not carried out in a timely manner, partly due to the high costs involved and the reluctance of the condo board and residents to fund such extensive work.

The Collapse and Immediate Aftermath

In the early hours of June 24, 2021, a section of the building suddenly gave way, causing a catastrophic collapse that left many residents trapped in the rubble. Emergency responders from across the state and beyond rushed to the scene to conduct search and rescue operations. Over the following weeks, these teams worked tirelessly, but the efforts gradually shifted from rescue to recovery as the likelihood of finding survivors diminished.

The collapse not only resulted in tragic loss of life but also left survivors and the families of the victims grappling with profound grief and uncertainty. The disaster prompted an outpouring of support and solidarity from communities and organizations nationwide, as well as a renewed focus on building safety and maintenance practices.

Investigations and Findings

Subsequent investigations into the collapse revealed that the primary cause was the failure of the concrete slab beneath the pool deck, which had been severely compromised by water intrusion and corrosion of the reinforcing steel. The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) conducted an extensive investigation, concluding that the slab’s structural integrity had been critically weakened over the years due to insufficient maintenance and repair efforts.

The investigation also pointed to systemic issues within the building’s management and regulatory oversight. It became evident that there was a lack of rigorous enforcement of existing building codes and inspection requirements, allowing significant structural issues to go unaddressed for too long.

Legislative Response

In the wake of the Champlain Tower South tragedy, the Florida Legislature took swift and decisive action to prevent similar disasters in the future. Recognizing the need for more stringent regulations and proactive maintenance practices, lawmakers passed several pieces of legislation aimed at improving the safety and structural integrity of condominium buildings across the state.

Senate Bill 4-D: Enhancing Safety Measures

One of the most significant legislative actions was the passage of Senate Bill 4-D in May 2022. This bill brought about a series of stringent requirements for condominium buildings, particularly those over three stories high. The legislation mandates milestone inspections, which must be conducted 25 years after the building’s initial occupancy for structures within three miles of the coastline, and 30 years for those located further inland. These inspections are then required every ten years thereafter. The first phase involves a visual assessment by a licensed architect or engineer, and if significant structural issues are identified, a more detailed follow-up inspection is mandated.

Structural Integrity Reserve Studies (SIRS)

In addition to the milestone inspections, the bill requires condo associations to conduct Structural Integrity Reserve Studies (SIRS) at regular intervals. These studies are essential for assessing the condition of critical building components such as roofs, load-bearing walls, and foundations. The SIRS must be completed every ten years, ensuring that any potential structural issues are identified and addressed promptly.

Mandatory Funding of Reserves

A crucial aspect of Senate Bill 4-D is the mandatory funding of reserves based on the findings of the SIRS. This provision eliminates the previous practice where condo associations could waive or reduce funding for essential repairs, a factor that significantly contributed to the collapse of Champlain Tower South. Under the new law, condo associations must fully fund their reserves to cover the costs of necessary maintenance and repairs. This requirement ensures that funds are available when needed, promoting proactive rather than reactive maintenance.

Increased Oversight and Enforcement

The legislative changes also include increased oversight and enforcement mechanisms. The Division of Florida Condominiums, Timeshares, and Mobile Homes now has expanded authority to enforce compliance with the new regulations. This includes the power to investigate complaints from unit owners and take action against non-compliant associations. Furthermore, new presale disclosure requirements ensure that prospective buyers are fully informed about the condition of the building and any pending repairs or special assessments. These measures aim to enhance transparency and accountability within condo associations.

Impact on Condo Owners and Associations

The recent legislative changes in Florida, prompted by the Champlain Tower South tragedy, have had profound effects on condo associations across the state. These new laws, aimed at preventing such disasters from recurring, have introduced stringent requirements that have reshaped how condo associations operate and manage their finances.

How the New Legislation is Affecting Condo Associations

The introduction of mandatory milestone inspections and Structural Integrity Reserve Studies (SIRS) has placed a significant administrative and financial burden on condo associations. These regulations require associations to perform regular, thorough inspections of their buildings and maintain adequate reserve funds to cover necessary repairs and maintenance. As a result, many associations are now required to undertake extensive evaluations of their properties, often revealing previously unaddressed structural issues.

Discovery of Deferred Maintenance Issues

One of the most immediate impacts of the new legislation has been the widespread discovery of deferred maintenance issues across the state. Many condo associations, particularly those managing older buildings, have been forced to confront the long-term consequences of years of inadequate maintenance and underfunded reserves. Inspections mandated by the new laws have uncovered significant structural problems that had been overlooked or ignored, sometimes for decades.

For example, some buildings have reported severe deterioration in critical components such as roofing, plumbing, and foundational structures. These discoveries are not only alarming but also require urgent attention, leading to immediate and often costly repairs. The findings from these inspections have underscored the importance of proactive maintenance and the dangers of deferring necessary repairs

Ballooning Special Assessments and Increased Dues

To comply with the new legislative requirements and address the discovered maintenance issues, many condo associations have had to implement significant increases in monthly dues and levy special assessments on unit owners. These financial measures are necessary to fund the required repairs and ensure that reserve accounts are adequately maintained. However, they have also placed a substantial financial strain on condo owners, many of whom were unprepared for these additional expenses.

Special assessments can run into the tens of thousands of dollars per unit, creating financial hardship for many residents, particularly those on fixed incomes. In some cases, the costs are so high that owners are forced to sell their units or engage in legal battles with their associations to contest the assessments. The increased dues and assessments are essential to comply with the new laws and ensure building safety. Still, they also highlight the financial challenges that come with maintaining an aging condominium infrastructure.

What This Means for Condo Buyers

The recent legislative changes in Florida have far-reaching implications for both current and prospective condo buyers. These regulations, while designed to ensure the safety and structural integrity of condominium buildings, also introduce several new considerations and potential financial burdens that buyers need to be aware of.

Impact on Current and Prospective Condo Buyers

For current condo owners, the new laws mean increased financial responsibilities. Condo associations are now required to perform regular, detailed inspections and fully fund reserve accounts for essential repairs and maintenance. These requirements often lead to higher monthly dues and special assessments, which can significantly impact an owner’s budget. For prospective buyers, understanding these new dynamics is crucial when considering the purchase of a condo in Florida.

Prospective buyers need to be aware that the cost of owning a condo may be higher than in the past. The necessity for associations to fund reserves adequately means that future maintenance and repair costs are likely to be passed on to owners through increased dues. Additionally, the potential for special assessments to cover urgent repairs discovered during mandated inspections is a financial factor that must be considered​.

Financial Implications: Higher Dues and Special Assessments

The financial implications of these legislative changes are significant. Condo associations are now obligated to fund reserves based on the findings of the Structural Integrity Reserve Studies (SIRS), leading to higher monthly dues. Special assessments, which are additional charges imposed on condo owners to cover unexpected or significant repairs, are becoming more common as associations work to comply with the new regulations.

These financial demands can be substantial. Special assessments can run into thousands or even tens of thousands of dollars per unit, depending on the extent of the required repairs and the size of the condo building. For many owners, particularly those on fixed incomes or with limited financial flexibility, these costs can pose a significant burden.

Tips for Prospective Buyers

Given the new legislative environment, prospective condo buyers must be more diligent than ever when evaluating potential purchases. Here are some essential steps and questions to consider:

Demand Comprehensive Documentation:

  • Board of Directors Meeting Minutes: Request the minutes from the last three years to understand any ongoing issues, decisions about maintenance, and financial planning.
  • Independent Reserve Audit: Obtain the most recent independent reserve audit for all reserve accounts. This document provides insights into the financial health and preparedness of the association.
  • Year-End Financial Statements: Review the year-end financials for the last three years to assess the association’s financial stability.
  • Current Year’s Budget: Examine the current year’s budget to see how funds are allocated and ensure there are adequate provisions for maintenance and repairs.
  • Delinquency Report: Request a report on the percentage of owners who are delinquent on their condo association dues. High delinquency rates can indicate financial instability and potential future assessments.

Evaluate the Results of Recent Inspections
: Ensure the building has undergone recent milestone inspections and review the findings. Look for any significant structural issues identified and how they are being addressed.

Understand the Reserve Funding: Confirm that the condo association is following the new laws regarding reserve funding. Well-funded reserves indicate that the association is prepared for future repairs, reducing the likelihood of sudden special assessments.

Ask About Planned Projects and Assessments: Inquire about any planned projects that might result in special assessments. Understanding the association’s future plans can help you anticipate potential costs.

Consult with a Real Estate Attorney: Given the complexity of the new regulations, consulting with a real estate attorney can provide additional protection and ensure that you fully understand the implications of your purchase.


In this article, we explored the significant changes in Florida’s condominium regulations following the tragic collapse of Champlain Tower South. We began with a historical context of condo maintenance practices in Florida, highlighting the common issues of deferred maintenance and underfunded reserves. We then detailed the Champlain Tower South tragedy, underscoring the critical failures that led to the disaster.

The legislative response to this tragedy was swift and comprehensive, with the introduction of Senate Bill 4-D and other measures aimed at enhancing the safety and structural integrity of condominium buildings. These new laws mandate regular milestone inspections, require thorough Structural Integrity Reserve Studies (SIRS), and enforce the full funding of reserves. These changes, while necessary, have introduced significant financial implications for condo associations and owners, leading to increased dues and special assessments.

For condo buyers, these legislative changes mean a more rigorous and informed purchasing process. Prospective buyers must now consider the potential for higher costs and ensure they are well-informed about the financial health and maintenance practices of the condo associations they are considering. It is crucial to request comprehensive documentation, including Board of Directors meeting minutes, independent reserve audits, year-end financials, the current year’s budget, and delinquency reports.

Proper condo maintenance and legislative oversight are vital for ensuring the safety and longevity of condominium buildings. The new regulations aim to prevent future tragedies by promoting proactive maintenance and financial preparedness within condo associations. As a condo buyer, staying informed and proactive about the health and maintenance practices of condo associations is essential to protect your investment and ensure a safe living environment.

Finally, working with a buyer’s agent who has extensive training and expertise in dealing with condos can be invaluable. At CENTURY 21 Edge, our agents are well-versed in the complexities of condo purchases and the new legislative requirements. They can provide the guidance and support needed to navigate the buying process confidently and make informed decisions.

By staying informed, asking the right questions, and working with knowledgeable professionals, condo buyers can successfully navigate the evolving landscape of Florida’s condominium market and ensure a secure and well-maintained home.


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Kevin Johnson

Kevin Johnson is the Chief Executive Officer and Managing Broker for the award-winning CENTURY 21 Edge and OneBlue Real Estate School. In his role as CEO, Kevin ensures that our organizations are defying mediocrity and delivering an extraordinary experience for our agents, students, and consumers. CENTURY 21 Edge currently has over 100 affiliated agents and two offices, Orlando and Pembroke Pines, Florida.