Milestone Inspections Florida: A Comprehensive Overview

Florida’s increasing emphasis on the structural safety of buildings, particularly in the condominium and cooperative sectors, has led to the implementation of mandatory structural inspections, also known as “milestone inspections.” This in-depth look will help you understand what these inspections are, why they are critical, and how to prepare for them.

Understanding Milestone Inspections

“Milestone inspections” refer to mandatory structural inspections carried out in Florida under Florida Statute 553.899 and Senate Bill 4-D, particularly for condominiums and cooperative buildings that stand three stories tall or more.

These inspections need to be performed by a licensed architect or engineer authorized to practice in Florida, these inspections aim to attest to the life safety and adequacy of the structural components of the building.

A milestone inspection determines the general structural condition of the building in regard to its safety, while highlighting any necessary maintenance, repair(s), or replacement(s) required for any structural component. These inspections are not intended to determine if an existing building is compliant with the Florida Building Code.

Miami building collapse - structural building inspection
Miami building collapse – structural building inspection

Identifying Substantial Structural Deterioration

One of the critical factors in a milestone inspection is identifying “substantial structural deterioration.” This term refers to substantial structural distress that negatively affects a building’s general structural condition and integrity.

These conditions do not include surface imperfections such as cracks, distortion, sagging, deflections, misalignment, or signs of leakage unless the licensed engineer or architect performing the phase one or phase two milestone inspection determines such imperfections as signs of substantial structural deterioration.

Who Requires a Milestone Inspection?

Florida Statute 553.899 and Senate Bill 4-D requires condominium and cooperative buildings that are three or more stories in height, with a certificate of occupancy dated on or before December 31, 1996, to have a “milestone inspection” by December 31, 2024 and also when a building reaches:

  • 30 years of age and every 10 years thereafter, or
  • 25 years of age and every 10 years thereafter if  the building is located within three miles of a coastline.

It is the condominium association’s duty to hire qualified engineers or architects to perform the inspections, ensuring they have the necessary expertise to detect potential issues that could impact the building’s safety.

The Two-Phase Milestone Inspection Process

A milestone inspection consists of two phases, and must be undertaken by a licensed architect or engineer authorized to practice in the state.

Phase One Milestone Inspection

The first phase involves a visual examination of habitable and non-habitable areas of a building, including the major structural components. The engineer or architect provides a qualitative assessment of the building’s structural conditions. If no signs of substantial structural deterioration are found, a phase two milestone inspection is not required. Following this, the professional will prepare and submit an inspection report.

Phase Two Milestone Inspection

If substantial structural deterioration is identified during the phase one milestone inspection, a phase two inspection must be performed. This phase may involve destructive or nondestructive testing, guided by the inspector’s direction.

The Phase Two Milestone Inspection aims to fully assess areas of structural distress, confirm the building’s structural integrity, and recommend a program for assessing and repairing distressed and damaged portions. 

This may include an in depth structural inspection involving visual examination or even destructive or abortive testing of areas of concern concealed beneath the surface layers of a building.

Often, signs of sagging deflections misalignment mean substantial structural distress hidden beneath the surface that can only be detected via inspection.

Once the phase two milestone inspection is complete, the inspector will prepare and submit an inspection report.

Preparing and Submitting the Milestone Inspection Report

Once a phase one or phase two milestone inspection is complete, the architect or engineer must submit a sealed copy of the inspection report with a separate summary of material findings and recommendations to the condominium or cooperative association and the local building official.

The inspection report must, among other things, bear the electronic signature of the professional, indicate the inspection type forming the basis for the report, identify substantial structural deterioration and recommended repairs, state if unsafe or dangerous conditions were observed, and recommend remedial or preventive repair for damaged items not classified as substantial structural deterioration.

If Repairs Are Necessary

If the phase two milestone inspection report determines the need for repairs, a permit must be applied for within 150 days. The responsible engineer or architect must provide the Building Official with a letter indicating whether the building may be safely occupied during the repairs. Once all applicable repairs are completed, the professional must provide an amended report indicating that the building is safe for continued use.

Penalties and Extensions

Florida also enforces penalties for non-compliance with milestone inspections. Fines can reach up to $500, or imprisonment not to exceed 60 days. Moreover, each day of continued violation is considered as a separate offense. Extensions are granted under certain conditions, including a 60-day extension for submitting the phase two inspection report.

By understanding the importance of milestone inspections and adhering to the required process, building owners and condominium associations can help ensure the safety of the residents and longevity of their buildings.

Preparing for a Milestone Inspection in Florida

  1. Understand the Requirement:
    Familiarize yourself with Florida’s milestone inspection requirements. If your building is 3 stories or more and is located within three miles of the coastline, or is more than three miles from the coastline but was constructed with a Certificate of Occupancy date on or before December 31, 1996, milestone inspections are required.
  2. Select a Licensed Architect or Engineer:
    The milestone inspection must be carried out by a licensed architect or engineer authorized to practice in Florida. You can contact Level Engineering and be sure that you will be assisted by a team of highly competent, locally licensed professionals.
  3. Notify the County:
    If necessary, ensure your selected design professional is added to the Milestone Record through the appropriate channels.
  4. Review Your Building’s Condition:
    Prior to the inspection, it’s a good idea to conduct a review of your building’s condition. Look for signs of structural distress such as sagging, deflections, misalignments, signs of leakage, and any other surface imperfections. While this won’t replace the official inspection, it may give you an idea of potential issues.
  5. Prepare Necessary Documents:
    Gather and organize all documents related to the building’s construction, past inspections, repairs, and maintenance. These documents can provide valuable information to the inspector.
  6. Ensure Access:
    Ensure that all areas of your building, including habitable and non-habitable spaces, are accessible for inspection. This includes basements, attics, utility rooms, and any other areas that might typically be locked or difficult to access.
  7. Schedule the Inspection:
    Contact Level Engineering to Schedule the milestone inspection at a time that causes the least disruption to your building’s occupants. Inform everyone in the building about the upcoming inspection to ensure cooperation.
  8. Follow-Up:
    After the inspection, the architect or engineer will prepare an inspection report. This will highlight any areas of substantial structural deterioration and recommendations for necessary repairs. Review this report carefully and make sure you understand the findings.
  9. Plan for Repairs:
    If the inspection report identifies areas that require remedial or preventive repair, start planning for these. If required, apply for a repair permit within the stipulated time.
  10. Inform the County:
    Once all applicable repairs are completed, the architect or engineer must provide an amended report to the County indicating that the building or structure is safe for continued use under the present occupancy. Make sure all required reports are submitted in the correct format and within the required timelines.

The effects of Climate Change

Climate change has intensified structural problems in buildings, causing more rapid deterioration and increased maintenance needs, particularly in vulnerable regions like Miami. The 2021 Champlain Towers South collapse in Miami marked a turning point, underscoring the urgent need for stricter building inspection and maintenance standards in response to climate change impacts.

In response, Miami-Dade County has reformed its compliance measures, mandating comprehensive inspections that consider climate change’s potential impacts on building durability and stability. The new rules have not only increased the frequency and thoroughness of inspections but also enforce immediate action when buildings fail to meet these standards. This regulatory shift emphasizes the critical role of compliance in ensuring building safety and resilience amidst the mounting challenges of climate change.

In conclusion,

Milestone inspections, particularly in areas prone to the impacts of climate change like Miami, are an essential measure to ensure the safety and longevity of existing buildings. As buildings age, they may develop structural issues that could compromise their stability.

The task of identifying these issues lies primarily with the professionals who conduct these milestone inspections, such as architects and engineers.

Miami has raised the bar for milestone inspections, introducing stricter regulations and more frequent, thorough inspections of structural components. These changes reflect a growing understanding of the need to adapt to climate change and to prioritize the life safety and resilience of buildings in the face of these threats.

By getting in touch with our team of professionals at Level Engineering to schedule a milestone inspection by a licensed architect or engineer, you can ensure your building is structurally sound, address any substantial structural deterioration and stay up to date with your building’s certificate of occupancy.

Picture of Scott Zurn, P.E.

Scott Zurn, P.E.

Founder and CEO of Level Engineering & Level Design Partners. With more than 4 decades of experience, Scott Zurn has contributed to all aspects of the building industry, serving both public and private sectors. He’s achieved tremendous success in commercial and residential markets, held leadership roles such as building official, city engineer, and director for local governments, and accomplished hundreds of millions of dollars in successful commercial building and civil infrastructure as a designer, project manager, and leader. As the Founder of the Level brand, Scott is dedicated to ensuring the entrepreneurial success of design professionals, as well as creating positive environmental impacts through design work. Read Scott’s full bio here.

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