After deadly condo collapse, building safety inspections could become more frequent in Palm Beach County

In the wake of the devastating condo collapse in Surfside, fears are sweeping Palm Beach County about older buildings that aren’t inspected regularly for safety. Now the county is inching toward new policies that could result in compulsory inspections.

Broward and Miami-Dade counties require structural and electrical safety inspections for condo buildings every 40 years. Inspections are carried out every 10 years, and building owners must make corrections on any issues that are found. Palm Beach County, however, has no such law.

Palm Beach County Mayor Dave Kerner said he expects to have a “robust discussion” about the safety of aging buildings next Tuesday. Meanwhile, many cities in the county are independently discussing updating their polices.

Town of Palm Beach Manager Kirk Bloin said they will either fall under Palm Beach County’s building program or create their own program if the county doesn’t move quickly enough to safeguard residents.

County Commissioners are scheduled to discuss building safety publicly for the first time since the collapse of the Champlain Towers South condo on June 24. The death toll in the collapse rose to 78 on Friday, while an additional 62 people are unaccounted for.

Palm Beach County building department officials are seeking direction from the commission “regarding developing and implementing a program to evaluate the safety of certain building types,” according to county documents.

No concrete plans have been developed for new policies, Assistant County Administrator Patrick Rutter said. Tuesday’s meeting is expected to be the first step in moving toward a definitive plan, which means any potential new laws would likely be voted on in a later County Commission meeting.

“The vast majority of condos that are in coastal areas are in particular cities,” County Mayor Kerner said. “So it’s incumbent upon us to make sure we work very closely with the building officials and leadership with various cities that are involved as well.”

Under current policies, the Building Department “relies primary on reported concerns from residents and property owners to determine when to initiate an investigation into potentially unsafe buildings, structures, equipment, or service systems,” according to county documents.

Staff writer Lisa J. Huriash contributed to this story.

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