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Answers to your Follow-Up Questions on Sprinklers

Our recent CALL Alert clarifying the sprinkler retrofit status of various building types generated a lot of appreciation and follow-up questions from clients and CALL Members. I am pleased to announce that the Division of Florida Condominiums, Timeshares and Mobile Homes has issued a Memo confirming that the opt out language in Chapters 718 and 719 of the Florida Statutes does not unilaterally impose a sprinkler installation requirement on mid and low rise buildings in Florida.

The Division’s announcement is a welcome clarification to the misinformation that was previously being provided to associations about which buildings must opt out before the end of this year or install a full sprinkler installation.

In addition to the questions we received regarding the Division’s position (which has now been clarified by their memo), the following information may also be useful to your board as we head into the final months before the opt out deadline passes on December 31, 2016.

• If your members voted to opt out prior to 2010, you may wish to take the vote again as the statutes were changed that year to allow associations to vote to opt out of sprinklers in the common areas as well inside the units. An opt out vote prior to the 2010 amendment to the Statute was a vote to opt out of retrofitting the units. A post-2010 vote is required to opt out of retrofitting the common areas.

• If your members previously voted to opt out of sprinklers, you should verify that all of the necessary post vote steps were taken. Just to recap, you must record a Notice of your Opt Out Vote in your local Public Records, file that Opt Vote Notice with the Division and, within thirty (30) days of your vote, send out a notice to each owner announcing the vote results. You should have filed an Affidavit in your official records confirming that such notice was mailed out in compliance with the statute. It is very important to confirm that these steps were taken. The notice to the owners of a successful vote is the only step with a specific deadline, and the filings in the public records and with the Division is where the local fire marshals are checking to see which non-exempt buildings did not opt out.

• The form required of condominium associations to report to the Division can be found at:
MyFloridaLicense – Retrofitting Report For Condominiums

• The form required of cooperative associations to report to the Division can be found at:
MyFloridaLicense – Retrofitting Report for Cooperatives

The statutes do not specify any consequences for failing to take the steps required after a successful vote, but there is no reason to assume failure to follow the required procedure will not have consequences. Accordingly, if you cannot verify that your association fully and timely complied, it is important that you consult your association attorney and consider retaking the vote and following the procedure to the letter while there is still time to do so.

For high-rises and other buildings which are not exempt from installation of a full sprinkler retrofit, a successful opt out vote will allow those buildings to avoid a full sprinkler installation but it will not allow those buildings to avoid installing an engineered life safety system (ELSS). When the opt out language was drafted in 2010, the opt out rights did extend to an ELSS but the opposition from fire marshals and the sprinkler industry was so great that the ELSS language was omitted. As such, associations must be prepared for the costs involved with installing an ELSS. If you are a high-rise or other building which is not exempt from installation of a sprinkler system, you should contact a fire safety engineer (not just any type of engineer) who can advise you what is required in your county or city in terms of an ELSS. The common belief is that an ELSS is less expensive and less intrusive than a full sprinkler installation.

As always, it is our pleasure at CALL to bring these important topics to your attention but please remember that it is essential to have the follow-up conversation with your B&P attorney.

Yeline Goin

Yeline Goin

Contact: ygoin@beckerlawyers.com

Yeline Goin is a member of the Firm’s Community Association Practice Group and Government Law & Lobbying Group. She concentrates her practice on the law of community associations, primarily representing condominium, cooperative, and homeowners’ associations. She also represents local governments and other entities in Tallahassee as part of our State Lobbying Team.