New Florida Law Covering Buildings & Timeshares
Florida has recently enacted a new building safety law aimed at preventing catastrophic structural failures like the one that occurred at the Champlain Towers South in Surfside in 2021. The legislation, which enhances inspection and maintenance processes, is expected to better safeguard occupants and ensure the structural integrity of condominium buildings, including some 400+ timeshare resorts in the state. The new law, dubbed the “Ron DeSantis Building Safety Act,” was signed by Governor Ron DeSantis and comprises several crucial changes to existing regulations. The most notable amendments involve the 40-year recertification process, requirements for reserve studies, and the hiring of licensed professionals to carry out these tasks.
Expanded Inspection Categories Bolster Recertification Process
Under the updated legislation, the 40-year recertification process will now include additional inspection categories. In addition to the previously required structural and electrical components, buildings will now be subject to evaluations of their mechanical, plumbing, and life safety systems. This comprehensive approach aims to identify and address potential vulnerabilities before they become critical.
The new law also requires reserve studies for condominium buildings undergoing their 40-year certification process in order to effectively establish the necessary funds needed for future maintenance, repairs, and replacements. Reserve studies are especially important when it comes to first generation timeshare properties as they will be vital towards preserving the financial stability of these resorts.
Facilitating Professional Oversight
An essential Structural Integrity Reserve Study (SIRS) must also be completed by a Florida-licensed professional engineer or architect every ten years. Should a timeshare resort fail to meet the requirements for any existing property prior to July 1, 2022, it would no longer be eligible for occupancy. All established timeshare properties must pass an inspection process focused on the integrity of load-bearing elements and various systems such as electrical components, plumbing facilities, mechanical features and life safety protocols by January 1st 2024.
Another key aspect of the legislation is the reporting requirement for licensed timeshare management professionals to carry out audits, special reserve studies, and other essential tasks for resort properties. Previously, timeshare board members could perform these duties, which could potentially lead to inadequate or inaccurate assessments. By mandating that licensed professionals undertake these responsibilities, the law aims to enhance the quality and reliability of the inspection process.
Additionally, the new law establishes an online database where condominium associations must submit their inspection reports and reserve studies. This centralized system will facilitate better tracking and monitoring of the condition of buildings in Florida, enabling regulatory authorities to identify issues more quickly and take appropriate action.
How Will This Law Impact Timeshares?
Each year, Timeshare Association Boards are accountable to report all necessary information regarding their reserve accounts in their annual financial statement. This includes the precise amount that is needed for full funding and if the property association has been able to meet that goal.
Moreover, any waiving of building reserves is now prohibited by law – a procedure that had become the norm in a number of timeshare resort operations. The state stipulates that all timeshare associations develop and preserve reserve accounts with funds ready to cover repairs and substitutions for common elements in the timeshare condominium over time.
Too often, Property Owner Associations (POAs) have not been allocating enough funds for the repair or replacement of roofs, plumbing systems and elevators. This is due to association boards voting time and time again to waive reserves over the years which has resulted in underfunded reserves. To rectify this problem while creating greater transparency for timeshare owners, additional regulations have been put into place.
Timeshare Maintenance Fees Set to Reflect True Costs as Industry Adapts
A prominent figure in the timeshare industry Jan Barrows recently remarked in Resort Trades that “the days of artificially suppressed maintenance fees are in the rearview mirror,” signifying an impending financial burden for individual owners as resort maintenance fees will be set to reflect true costs.
Although timeshare owners will likely be required to pay a higher annual maintenance fee going forward, this improved legislation may provide them with greater security knowing that their money is being used for upkeep and reserve funds set aside for repairs and replacements.
The new rules ensure more oversight of timeshare properties as well as an increased transparency about how the fees are spent. Finally, this new regulation is a critical step in protecting not only Floridians but also visitors to the state by providing them with the assurance of safety and security.
This article is for informational purposes only and is not intended as legal advice.
Led by timeshare attorneys J. Andrew Meyer and Michael D. Finn with over 75 years of combined experience. The Finn Law Group is a consumer protection firm specializing in Timeshare law. If you have a timeshare related issue, please feel free to contact our office for a free consultation. Our attorneys can be reached at 855-FINN-LAW or email us: [email protected]. Be sure to read our blog for more information on various topics related to timeshares and vacation ownership.
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