The city of Aventura could soon become the first in Florida to require that condo associations hand over any engineering, architectural, and life-safety reports they conduct to the city.
A measure passed unanimously Thursday on first reading by Aventura Mayor Enid Weisman and six commissioners takes aim at transparency and condo safety in the wake of the building collapse in Surfside nearly a month ago that authorities believe left 98 dead — and comes as Miami-Dade County faces increasing pressure to address around 1,000 open unsafe-structure cases in its jurisdiction.
The ordinance must be approved again on second reading to become law; a hearing is scheduled for Aug. 10. If approved, it would require condo board representatives and homeowner association managers to provide the city with copies of any structural, electrical and safety reports within 24 hours of receiving them.
Once the city receives the documents, the goal is to make all the reports available to the public, Weisman told the Herald. That way, any resident concerned about the safety of their condo can turn to an online, city-managed resource and easily access all available information without going through the process of requesting records — thus “actually saving time and money,” she said.
An investigation into the cause of the Champlain Towers South collapse is ongoing — including a federal investigation by the National Institute of Standards and Technology that is almost certain to take years to complete — and no cause has been determined. But three years prior to the collapse, an engineer had informed the Champlain homeowners association of “major structural damage” related to a “major error” in the building’s design.
Under the proposed Aventura ordinance, if a report conducted by an engineer hired by a condo association does find structural issues with the building, Weisman said, the new ordinance would enable the city to send its own engineers to the property for an evaluation — even if the building is not up for 40-year or 50-year re-certification.
Absent problematic findings, the ordinance does not require associations to conduct any additional inspections or assessments beyond those they would undertake of their own initiative based on residents’ concerns. The results of those they do undertake, however, must be disclosed.
“This is providing transparency both for residents and for the city to say, ‘Well, ‘condo A’ is asking for this report… do we need to send our building official or an inspector out there and take a look to see what the situation is?’” Weisman said.
Violating the ordinance would subject the homeowners association or property manager to daily fines of up to $500 and up to 60 days in prison.
The law would impact the around 250 condo associations in Aventura — 70 of which are up for or past their 40-year re-certification date.
“Immediately after the tragedy in Surfside, I believed that we could do something very quickly. Right now, people are afraid and that may be because they don’t know,” Weisman said. Without the new ordinance, the mayor explained she has no way of obtaining information about condos’ safety, except at the 40-year interval.
With the ordinance, “no matter the age, any time the building orders the reports, they’ll be able to deliver it to the city electronically, and we’ll be able to provide it for transparency,” Weisman said. “It’s ensuring that our public can put their heads on their pillows and sleep at night knowing that their building is okay.”
After Surfside — and the evacuation of the Crestview Towers in North Miami Beach that followed — condo residents across Miami-Dade are worried about their buildings’ safety. Although Weisman said she is not one for “knee-jerk reactions” and wants to wait for what an engineering investigation will show was the cause of the Surfside collapse, this measure felt like a “good first step” in the meantime.
“I understand the fear — I, too, live in a condo,” Weisman said. “Any time they see a crack, people are just going, ‘Oh my God, is that a problem?’ And they have every right legally to see the information that their condo has been provided. This will just make for them an easy place to go.”