Friday, February 18, 2011

How Many Florida High-Rises Have Exercised Their Hard-Won Sprinkler Opt Out Rights?

For the last seven years, residents in older condominium and cooperative high-rises in Florida have fought what they perceived to be an unfair application of the Life Safety Code to their buildings. Legislation that was designed to give these folks the right to decide for themselves whether or not to install costly sprinkler systems in their buildings was vetoed twice by two different governors.

When Governor Crist vetoed SB 714 he did so with the mandate that the Division of Florida Condominiums find out just how many buildings would be impacted by the sprinkler retrofit issue. The Division's report concluded that approximately 7,000 buildings would have to retrofit with sprinklers in order to comply with Florida's version of the Life Safety Code. The costs to retrofit these older, occupied buildings was staggering in some instances.

Fortunately, the Community Advocacy Network(CAN), its 12-member Advisory Council and its more than 2,000 member associations went to bat again last Session and saw success in the passage of SB 1196. High-rise condominium and cooperative associations now have the ability to decide by a majority vote to forego installation of sprinklers in their units and in the common areas. Of course, there is a catch. If an association has not voted to opt out of sprinklers by December 31, 2016, they are automatically on the path to sprinkler installation. Those associations who have not opted out by that deadline must immediately initiate an application for a building permit for the sprinkler installation and that sprinkler installation must be completed by December 31, 2019.

Word of our success in this fight has spread. We have been contacted by associations facing similar costly retrofit demands by local fire marshals in New Hampshire and Ocean City, MD. We have advised them that the process was certainly lengthy but it can be done.

My Firm has been steadily preparing more and more Sprinkler Opt Out Voting packages for affected associations. The question is how many other impacted high-rise associations are holding off on taking this vote and why?

This work by Donna DiMaggio Berger, Esq. is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Generic License.

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