Former lawmaker says repealed Florida law could have prevented Surfside condo collapse

A Florida law that was repealed more than a decade ago could have potentially helped prevent the Surfside condominium collapse, according to the state lawmaker whos sponsored the bill.

Former Florida state Rep. Julio Robaina (R) told NBC News that a bill he sponsored in 2008 could have better prepared the Champlain Towers South condominium board by requiring building associations to hire experts to submit reports on the estimated costs of repairs, called a reserve study.

Champlain Towers South had not conducted a professional reserve study since at least 2016, NBC reported.

ADVERTISEMENT

"If the owners would have had a reserve study, if the board was proactive and had funded its reserves, this never would have happened," Robaina told NBC.

Robaina sponsored the law in 2008, but it was repealed in 2010 after he left office. The former lawmaker pinned the blame on real estate lawyers and property managers who argued the law placed too high of a burden on condo owners.

NBC noted that the lawmaker who sponsored the bill's repeal, state Rep. Gary Aubuchon (R), is a real estate broker and homebuilder.

Shortly after the collapse it was reported that an engineering firm had informed the Champlain Towers South board that the cost of repairs had risen to $16.2 million. The condo board president Jean Wodnicki acknowledged in a letter to residents last year that the damage to the building's basement garage had “gotten significantly worse."

Documents later revealed that the condo board had only $777,000 in its reserve funds for future repairs.

According to Robaina, maintaining healthy reserves "is the single most important action that a condominium board needs to take."

As of Thursday, the death toll from the collapse has risen to 64 people. The number of unaccounted people now stands at 76.