Surfside condo rubble cleared
As recovery efforts finished up this past week at the collapsed Champlain South Tower in Surfside, Florida, the Office of Insurance Regulation (OIR) finished its data call of insurance companies. The information will provide a comprehensive picture of insured damage across all lines that could be used to craft updated legislation on building codes and commercial building inspection laws.
The collapsed site is now cleared to the foundation and buffer walls. The Miami-Dade Fire Department said as of Wednesday that 97 victims had been identified with one additional victim yet unidentified. No further human remains are expected to be found at the site. Officials are shoring up several outside foundation walls that they fear could shift and cause a partial collapse of adjacent Collins Avenue, before that main thoroughfare is reopened to street traffic.
OIR’s data call was meant to identify which insurance companies wrote policies within the 13-story high-rise and claims data covering a range of policies from property and liability to health and automobile lines. The condominium association had $48 million of coverage, including $30 million for property damage and $18 million for personal injury. Last week, a judge approved the sale of the oceanfront property, which could generate up to $110 million, with proceeds intended to benefit victims and their families.
This New York Times story contemplates whether the Champlain South Tower collapse will create further turmoil and policy unavailability in Florida’s troubled insurance market. But Patricia Born who teaches in the Risk Management and Insurance Program at Florida State University’s College of Business thinks not. Appearing on WUSF-FM’s Florida Matters radio program, Born said the collapse likely won’t dissuade insurance companies from writing condo coverage. But she said it can be a lesson to condo owners who hope for lower HOA fees. It’s those fees that help fund short- and long-term building maintenance.
With the investigation into the cause of the collapse ongoing, Governor DeSantis reiterated that the state will review condo association disclosure requirements to see what changes in law may be needed. State Representative Paul Renner (R-Palm Coast), who is in line to be House Speaker following the 2022 elections said last week that the legislature will examine state condominium inspection and repair requirements. As we said in the last newsletter, this appears to be an inspection and maintenance issue, not a building issue. The building code is not a maintenance code under Florida’s current statutory framework.
As Miami-Dade County continues emergency inspections of other commercial buildings over five-stories and 40+ years-old, it deemed the 16-unit Villa Bianca Condominium to be unsafe last week and ordered its evacuation. It follows similar orders three weeks ago on the 10-story Crestview Towers in North Miami Beach and the top floors of the Miami-Dade civil courthouse downtown, and one other building.
LMA Newsletter of 7-26-21