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Charlotte County sent notices to owners of 168 condominiums built decades ago that are at least three stories high, informing them the structures must undergo comprehensive inspections under a new state law. 

Charlotte County Building Official Shawn McNulty explained what the new law means and how it came about during the Board of County Commissioners April 16 workshop session. 

“As you may or may not remember, on June 24, 2021, a large section of the 40-year-old, 12-story Champlain Towers [South] condominium building collapsed in Miami’s Surfside neighborhood, where 98 lives were lost,” he said. 

The incident prompted an emergency session of the Florida Legislature, which passed Senate Bill 4D Building Safety, requiring condominiums located within 3 miles of a coastline to be inspected at 25 years and every 10 years after that. 

But SB 4D was modified when Gov. Ron DeSantis on June 9, 2023, signed into law Senate Bill 154, also known as the Glitch Bill, which relaxes the original bill and gives some control to local government. 

Under the Glitch Bill, instead of mandating buildinges within 3 miles of a coastline be inspected at 25 years and 10 years after that, now the 25-year requirement is an option for local governments to adopt depending on local circumstances, such as proximity to salt water. 

There was no change to the minimum requirement to inspect buildings once they reach 30 years of age, however. 

In Charlotte County, there are a total of 272 condominium buildings that will be subject to the law. By December, another 10 will be 25 years or older. 

The Florida Building Commission must adopt rules establishing a building safety program by Dec. 31, and in Charlotte County the Community Development department is working on a process to ensure compliance with all effected buildings that require a milestone inspection, McNulty said. 

There will be a two-phase inspection process in which the owners would have an architect or engineer ensure the buildings are structurally sound and safe. 

The cost of the inspections will be borne by the buildings’ owners. The county is not going to do the inspections but will track them, McNulty said.  

There are stringent timelines in the law regarding repairs, and if the repairs are not made, the building could be condemned, he added. 

He provided commissioners with three options available: a 25-year inspection countywide, a 25-year inspection requirement for a designated area of the city, such as within 3 miles of the coast and a 30-year requirement for the rest of the county, or take no action, keeping the 30-year inspection regulation countywide, regardless of proximity to the water. 

The county does not have jurisdiction over Punta Gorda condominiums. The city’s government will enact the law for structures located in the city. 

Although no action was taken during the workshop session, commissioners favored adopting a more stringent option as some cited building deterioration not only from salt water intrusion but from salt air. 

Commission Chair Bill Truex, who is a builder, said his company made extensive structural repairs to a three-story, concrete structure that was not properly built and less than 30 years old. 

He recommended adopting a requirement for inspections to be conducted at 25 years and at least within 3 miles of the coastline. 

Both commissioners Chris Constance and Ken Doherty leaned toward favoring a stricter  inspection code for older condominium buildings. 

At the conclusion of his presentation, McNulty said in March, details of a three-year investigation in the collapse of the Champlain Towers South in a preliminary report cited “construction deficiencies in the original construction have been identified as a likely cause of the building’s failure.” 

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