DeSantis’s Dem opponent, ex Fla governor, repealed law that could have repaired Surfside condo quicker – NBC leaves name out

A local Florida NBC affiliate uncovered a law this week that could have prevented the collapse of the Champlain Towers in Surfside, Florida had it not been repealed, but while people search for accountability in the face of tragedy, the affiliate conveniently did not share just who had repealed the law.

This law was repealed in 2010 thanks to pressure from real estate lawyers and property managers. The news outlet mentioned that former state Rep. Gary Aubuchon, a Republican real estate broker and homebuilder, sponsored the repeal but didn’t note the governor who ultimately signed off. Note the mention of Aubuchon’s political affiliation in the report by NBC 6 in South Florida.

Many found it strange that the outlet would refrain from sharing who precisely was responsible for the action, being that it’s such a critical development.

While not explicitly mentioned, it appears Democrat Charlie Crist was governor at the time and likely ultimately signed off on the repeal.

Interestingly enough, Crist is now running against the current governor, Ron DeSantis, for the seat.

This left many to speculate that the outlet’s obfuscation may have been intentional and politically motivated:

While it’s known that the building, built in the 1980s, had long had structural damage and reportedly put off further inspections and expensive repairs, a closer look reveals that the 2008 law would have required the condo association to hire engineers or architects to inspect the building and submit reports every five years with a cost estimate on repairs.

In late 2020, the Champlain condo association began to deliberate over how they were going to pay for a newly evaluated $16.2 million in structural repairs. In this scenario, most condos would look to their reserve fund, a trust that holds extra accrued money to cover future insurance and repair costs.

Champlain Towers’ reserve held just $777,000, according to documents, leaving the condo short by more than $15 million.

The poorly maintained account represents a departure from best practice and was a result of lax Florida laws that allow condo associations to continue to kick the can on repairs while raising costs on residents without much oversight.

“In postponing inspections, reserve studies, and — ultimately — complete repairs or renovations, boards often end up facing an exponentially more comprehensive and expensive project in the long run,” a 2020 report from the Community Associations Institute said.

Condo buildings are reportedly allowed to skate by with lenient law that requires reserves to hold just over $10,000 for repairs– far less than a building that size would need.

The law also permits condos to waive the reserve requirement altogether. Condo boards are required to pass an annual budget, but once that is done, they can allow a resident vote to opt-out of collecting money for the reserve.

Experts told the NBC affiliate that this seems to be what Champlain Towers South did.

“If the owners would have had a reserve study, if the board was proactive and had funded its reserves, this never would have happened,” Julio Robaina, a former Republican state legislator who sponsored the 2008 bill, told NBC 6.

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