Does a Florida Condominium Association without a fire sprinkler system in place have to install one? [6-23-15]

Does a Florida Condominium Association without a fire sprinkler system in place have to install one?

By Susan P. Bakalar, Esq.

Many condominium association buildings in Florida were built without having a fire sprinkler safety system. According to governing statutes, if a condominium association does not vote to forego the installation of a fire sprinkler system by December 31, 2016 and has not actually installed a fire sprinkler system, the association will be required to become compliant with code and install a fire sprinkler system by December 31, 2019. The costs to an association to undertake installation of a fire sprinkler system can be monumental. In 2003, the Florida Condominium Act was amended to allow for high rise condominium associations to opt out of the fire sprinkler retrofit requirements and there exists an option to condominiums to, for lack of a better word, “avoid” having to install such a system.

Section 718.112(l) of the 2014 Florida Statutes provides that any local authority having jurisdiction over a building that has been certified for occupancy may not require completion of retrofitting with a fire sprinkler system before January 1, 2020 and further provides owners in a condominium association with the ability to vote to forego the installation of a fire sprinkler system by following a rather simple process outlined below:

A vote to forego retrofitting may be obtained by limited proxy or by a ballot personally cast at a duly called membership meeting, or by execution of a written consent by the member, and is effective upon recording a certificate attesting to such vote in the public records of the county where the condominium is located.
The association shall mail or hand deliver to each unit owner written notice at least 14 days before the membership meeting in which the vote to forego retrofitting of the required fire sprinkler system is to take place.
Within 30 days after the association’s opt-out vote, notice of the results of the opt-out vote must be mailed or hand delivered to all unit owners. Evidence of compliance with this notice requirement must be made by affidavit executed by the person providing the notice and filed among the official records of the association. After notice is provided to each owner, a copy must be provided by the current owner to a new owner before closing and by a unit owner to a renter before signing a lease.
If there has been a previous vote to forego retrofitting, a vote to require retrofitting may be obtained at a special meeting of the unit owners called by a petition of at least 10 percent of the voting interests. [Electronic transmission may not be used to provide notice of a meeting called in whole or in part for this purpose].
As part of the information collected annually from condominiums, the division shall require condominium associations to report the membership vote and recording of a certificate under this subsection and, if retrofitting has been undertaken, the per-unit cost of such work.

If an association wishes to forego the installation of a fire sprinkler system and has the necessary votes to waive the retrofitting requirements, the association must report the results of the voting to the Division of Land Sales, Condominium and Mobile Homes within 60 days from the recording of the certificate.

Navigating the paperwork and requirements of the statute may require the assistance of the associations’ attorney. In the event that there are any questions regarding the statute, the vote to forego retrofitting and the related paperwork, we invite the association board or its manager to contact our office at 954-475-4244.