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Should You Proceed with an ELSS Installation or Wait and See?

The issue of retrofitting with an Engineered Life Safety System (ELSS) impacts older Florida high-rises (buildings constructed in 1992 or earlier that are 75 feet or higher). However, the issues discussed in today’s CALL Alert are instructive for all types of community associations when an operational issue in a community hinges on legislative relief.

When should you act on a costly issue in your community and when should you take a “wait and see” approach?

Many older high-rises in Florida have previously taken a vote to opt out of sprinklers since opt out rights became available approximately fifteen years ago. Those associations were then mystified to learn that the State Fire Marshal was still insisting that they install sprinklers as one of several components of an Engineered Life Safety System (ELSS).

CALL has been successfully lobbying on this issue since 2003 and over the years we have achieved several important legislative reprieves for our older high-rise members. This Session is particularly important as the deadline to install an ELSS arrives at the end of this year.

The ELSS bill, HB 647, sponsored by Representatives Rommel and Grieco should be up next week in Commerce but the agenda has not yet been posted as of this writing. The posting will be April 16th by 4PM.

CALL’s lead lobbyist on this issue, former State Senator and Becker Shareholder, Ellyn Bogdanoff, believes that the Governor and House are solidly behind our efforts; however, everyone is anxious to see if we can strike a compromise since the bill that mandates sprinklers is still moving in the Senate. The risk of something not passing is too great and with only 3 weeks left in session we are turning up the heat.

The competing bill, HB 723, put forward by the sprinkler industry simply provides more time to install an ELSS but does not provide for a complete opt out.  One of our big concerns with this bill was the stiff penalties of $500 per day if the retrofitting was not completed by the end of 2022. The sponsors heard us and removed those penalties from the bill. However, our concerns with the bill remain as it still calls for costly retrofitting which is akin to a tax of up to $20,000 per unit.

If you manage or serve on the board of an older high-rise and you are waiting to see the outcome of the 2019 Legislative Session in terms of further ELSS relief, please be sure to speak to your attorney to confirm any steps you need to be taking currently in the event that this Session does not deliver the relief we are seeking.

As for the SB 824, the Airbnb bill that has so many of our members concerned, that bill is currently being held up in the Senate. And thanks to efforts by many of you, the House and Senate versions of the bill were both amended to provide as follows:

Nothing in this subsection shall supersede any current or future: articles of incorporation, declaration or bylaws adopted pursuant to chapter 718; cooperative documents adopted pursuant to chapter 719; or governing documents adopted pursuant to chapter 720.

So we have a glimmer of hope on both HB 647 and SB 824 but things can change quickly so we must remain vigilant until Sine Die a few short weeks from now.

Donna DiMaggio Berger

Donna DiMaggio Berger

Contact: dberger@beckerlawyers.com