40-Year + Inspections in Broward and Miami-Dade County

40-Year + Inspections

There is a lot to love about living in Florida, especially in Broward and Miami-Dade counties. If you own a building in this area and that building was built around four decades ago, you may find yourself getting a Notice of Required Inspection. This is something that comes up for every building that was built 40 or more years ago, and it means it is time for you to go through the process of the 40-year inspection and recertification for your property.

What Is a 40-Year Inspection?

The 40-year inspection is a required assessment of the structural and electrical safety of a building once it is 40 years past its construction date. The program went into effect in Broward County in 2006, although a similar program has been in place in Miami-Dade County since the '70s. Such an inspection must be performed on Broward County buildings that are over 2,000 square feet and Miami-Dade County buildings that are more than 3,500 square feet. There are a few buildings that are exempt from this inspection:

  • State of Florida buildings
  • S. Government buildings
  • Schools under the county school boards
  • Buildings on Indian reservations
  • One- and two-family dwellings

Although an inspection and recertification is required once a building is 40 years old, the next one comes sooner. After the 40-year assessment is complete, the buildings must then receive such an inspection every 10 years after that.

Why Is an Inspection Required?

Buildings in Florida are really put through the wringer. While the overall state climate is pleasant most of the year and attracts many tourists, it can greatly affect the structural integrity of buildings that house many employees or residents. The 40-year inspections are required to assess how a building's structural components are holding up in the climate. There are three huge climate factors that can affect buildings in Miami-Dade and Broward counties:

  • Heat: Thermal expansion is when metal expands as it is exposed to heat. Florida summers easily see temperatures climb into the 90s. Sometimes this thermal expansion can affect components immediately surrounding the metal, so it is vital that beams, rebar and other metal parts are inspected carefully.
  • Beach: The proximity to the ocean also means Broward and Miami-Dade counties have a lot of humidity and salt in the air. This is the perfect storm for corrosion of metal. In fact, metal components that are exposed to humid and salty air tend to corrode 10 times as fast as components exposed only to normal humidity levels.
  • Hurricanes: Hurricane season lasts from the beginning of June to the end of November in Florida. With the season comes a lot of rain and high winds. Buildings must be built to withstand the heavy storm winds and downpours that can occur throughout the year.

Most modern structures that are built to code can hold up just fine, but components go through natural wear and tear over time. Even if a building is well-built at first, it should receive a thorough inspection once it is 40 years old.

Who Can Perform the Inspection?

The 40-year + inspections should be performed by Engineers.

  • Professional Structural Engineer: A Professional Structural Engineers should perform the structural portion of the inspection as they are most qualified to perform this task. Structural Engineers must earn a degree from an accredited program, have at least four years of experience and pass two examinations: Fundamentals of Engineering, referred to as FE, and Principles & Practice of Engineering, referred to as PE. Licenses must be renewed every other year and require at least 18 hours of continuing education.
  • Professional Electrical Engineer: A Professional Electrical Engineer should perform the electrical portion of the inspection as they are most qualified to perform this task. The professional Electrical Engineer’s requirements are the same as those for the Structural Engineer. They must earn a degree from an accredited program, have at least four years of experience and pass two examinations: Fundamentals of Engineering, referred to as FE, and Principles & Practice of Engineering, referred to as PE. Licenses must be renewed every other year and require at least 18 hours of continuing education.

Owners should be cautious about hiring companies that are not Professional Engineers. There is a likelihood that the team involved is not properly qualified to perform the inspection.

How Long Does It Take To Do a 40-Year Building Recertification?

Once you have completed all of the inspection work and filled out the paperwork, it can take as little as two weeks to receive your certification from the city. On the other hand, if you start with collecting the data on the buildings in the area, the entire recertification process takes approximately one year from the very beginning to the end.

In the summer before the calendar year in which a building enters its 40th year, each city should receive the Property Appraisers Office's data on the building from the Board of Rules and Appeals. This kicks off a process in which the property owners must then be notified that the 40-year inspection and recertification is coming due. This is referred to as the Notice of Required Inspection. If all goes according to schedule, building owners should be notified about the upcoming inspection requirements by the August before the start of the building's 40th year.

Keep in mind that 40-year inspections and recertifications must be completed even if somehow the Notice of Required Inspection was missed. For this reason, it is important for property owners to know how old their buildings are. Owners may refer to the Certificate of Occupancy and note the date to determine the official anniversary on record for their structure.

Once the property owners receive the notification, they have approximately three months to compile and submit a checklist to the city and county that encompasses the structural and electrical results of the inspection. The inspection is designed to examine the structural and electrical safety of the building and does not necessarily require that the building is up to the most current codes. In other words, building owners do not necessarily need to stress if the building's walls have cracked paint jobs and a leaky faucet here and there. Inspectors will be looking for more immediate safety threats. However, if any repairs are required as a result of the inspection, the repairs may need to adhere to the latest building codes.

After submitting the checklist, the property owner has a window of about six months to perform any of the needed repairs. All work should be completed by around May of the 40th anniversary of the building.

What Is Involved in the Inspection?

The inspection looks at parts of the building that could affect its structural integrity and make it unsafe to be in. The actual appearance of the building does not really matter so long as it does not also contain unsafe conditions. The inspection is likely to look at the following:

  1. STRUCTURAL
    1. Masonry Walls
    2. Floor and Roof Systems
    3. Steel Framing Systems
    4. Concrete Framing Systems
    5. Windows
    6. Wood Framing
    7. Exterior Finishes

 

  1. ELECTRICAL
    1. Electrical Service
    2. Grounding
    3. Conductors: Code Compliant
    4. Auxiliary Gutters/ Wireways/ Busways
    5. Electrical Panels
    6. Disconnects
    7. Branch Circuits
    8. Conduit/Raceways
    9. Low Voltage Wiring Methods
    10. Building Illumination
    11. Fire Alarm System
    12. Smoke Detectors
    13. Generator
    14. Site Wiring
    15. Swimming Pool/Spa Wiring
    16. Wiring to Mechanical Equipment

Professional Engineering knowledge of building construction and support structures is essential for the inspection to be accurate. The Engineers you hire to perform the inspection will have a checklist of items to look for and will need to both sign and seal the report for delivery. However, the inspector will probably let you know about any notable issues that will require repair so that you can start to make plans to ready your property for recertification.

It is also important to remember that how long the inspection takes depends on the size of the building and the number of potential issues. Larger and multistoried buildings may take up to a full day or longer to complete the inspection.

What Percentage of a Building Requires Assessment?

The purpose of the 40 year + inspection is to determine if life-safety issues are present.  Some companies offering 40 year + inspections state that they can assess the condition of a building without assessing 100% percent of the structure or electrical components. For instance, condo and apartment buildings with residential units often have balconies.  Balconies often experience structural problems at they are most likely made of concrete. Balconies that are close to the intracoastal waterway or the ocean often experience damage due to the chlorides.  Therefore, it is recommended that all the balconies are assessed and not just a partial percentage (i.e. 30%) to ensure that all areas are deemed safe or not. If the purpose of the inspection is to assess life safety issues, then all balconies should be assessed. Owners must be aware that accepting a partial assessment of their building might not properly protect the unit owners or residents.

How Much Do 40-Year Inspections Cost?

The actual inspection and recertification fees can vary depending on the size of the property and the county's requirements. You can expect to pay a few hundred dollars to the city or county for recertification. To determine how much the inspection will cost, you should consult the Engineers you plan to use. If repairs and permits for repairs are required before recertification can be completed, those may add to the final cost as well.

Failure to perform the inspection and recertification can result in costly fines of more than $10,000, plus having to pay any additional incurred costs of enforcing the recertification. Going through the process is likely to save you a lot more money.

How Do You Get Started With an Inspection?

The 40-year + inspection is an important safety requirement for buildings throughout Miami-Dade and Broward counties. While it can seem like a complicated and huge undertaking at first, the process can go much more smoothly if you work with an experienced Engineer who understands the process and can streamline it for you. To learn more about how United Professional Engineering can help with your upcoming recertification, call 561-582-1733 or email us at info@upefl.com .