Family members whose loved ones died in the Surfside condo collapse say a new bill pushing to make condominiums safer is a step in the right direction after 98 people died last summer in the Champlain Towers South collapse.
The proposal would mandate periodic inspections for older buildings across Florida and require that condo boards put aside enough money to pay for needed structural repairs. Republican lawmakers unveiled the legislative package on Tuesday during a special legislative session and said they had reached a deal on the reforms. House Bill 5D passed the House Appropriations Committee later Tuesday.
Martin Langesfeld, whose sister and brother-in-law died in the June 24 collapse, said the proposed reforms would create an “impactful change” and honor the Surfside victims while preventing future tragedies.
“It is terrible that it had to come at the cost of so many lives, but this could not wait any longer,” Langesfeld said. “This bill must be enacted into a law immediately along with a few others to come in the future.”
Langesfeld said he wished lawmakers acted more quickly after the collapse and noted that they failed to reach an agreement on similar reforms in March during the regular legislative session. He has visited the Florida Capitol several times since the collapse, meeting with lawmakers and advocating for legislative change in press conferences, and said he plans to keep up his advocacy to make sure the bill gets passed.
“I will continue to advocate for safety reforms and change so no one ever goes through what we had to go through,” Langesfeld said.
Pablo Rodriguez, whose mother and grandmother died in the collapse, said the bill is a step toward making condo buildings safer.
“While this measure does not go far enough to address the underlying issues plaguing condo associations and the lack of oversight on condo boards, generally, it is a first step for much needed reforms,” he said.
Former residents of Champlain Towers South who also spoke to the Herald on Tuesday said lawmakers needed to act quickly to make changes to condo laws.
“It’s absolutely necessary and it has to get done now,” said Steve Rosenthal, a unit owner who survived the partial collapse. “Those 98 people should not have died in vain. Changes in the law will save lives.”
Another unit owner, Oren Cytrynbaum, said he was baffled as to why the Legislature failed to pass any new regulations in March.
“I don’t know if it’s the additional costs involved but how can anyone be against condominium safety in Florida?” he said. “More inspections are important but the most important thing is to have inspections conducted with strict and thorough standards and to improve the quality of inspections.”