Compliance with the Florida Fire Prevention Code

 HB 7103EG

An Opinion By Jan Bergemann 
President, Cyber Citizens For Justice, Inc.

Published May 14, 2019

 

The Florida legislature didn't do anything this year to protect members of community associations against the many abuses these owners are subjected to in many associations.

 

The main topic this year -- again: Retrofitting with Sprinkler-Systems in buildings of more than 75ft. height. These hi-rises got another 5 year reprieve.

 

What's new? ABSOLUTELY NOTHING! This is ongoing since 2004 -- and instead of creating reserve funds to pay for the retro-fitting quite a few of the condo association rather spend money on lobbying against the retro-fitting requirements. It's just amazing!


By the way, the cost of retro-fitting is by far not as high as some industry-members want you to believe. The outrageous cost often quoted by attorneys and community association managers are just part of the scare tactics used to convince condo owners that money is more important than their safety.

 

In all honesty: I can understand that attorneys rather see the association funds used for legal fees than for the safety of the owners.

 

Here is the language that was included in the Engrossed Version of HB 7103:

 

718.112, Florida Statutes, is amended to read:

718.112  Bylaws.—

    (2)  REQUIRED PROVISIONS.—The bylaws shall provide for the following and, if they do not do so, shall be deemed to include the following

(l) Firesafety.—An association must ensure compliance with the Florida Fire Prevention Code. As to a residential condominium building that is a high-rise building as defined under the Florida Fire Prevention Code, the association must retrofit either a fire sprinkler system or an engineered life safety system as specified in the Florida Fire Prevention Code.

Notwithstanding chapter 633 or of any other code, statute, ordinance, administrative rule, or regulation, or any interpretation of the foregoing, an association, residential condominium, or unit owner is not obligated to retrofit the common elements, association property, or units of a residential condominium with a fire sprinkler system in a building that has been certified for occupancy by the applicable governmental entity if the unit owners have voted to forego such retrofitting by the affirmative vote of a majority of all voting interests in the affected condominium.

The local authority having jurisdiction may not require completion of retrofitting with a fire sprinkler system or an engineered life safety system before January 1, 2024.

1.  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.

2.  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. Such a vote may only be called once every 3 years. Notice shall be provided as required for any regularly called meeting of the unit owners, and must state the purpose of the meeting. Electronic transmission may not be used to provide notice of a meeting called in whole or in part for this purpose.

3.  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. The division shall annually report to the Division of State Fire Marshal of the Department of Financial Services the number of condominiums that have elected to forego retrofitting.

4.  Notwithstanding s. 553.509, a residential association may not be obligated to, and may forego the retrofitting of, any improvements required by s. 553.509(2) upon an affirmative vote of a majority of the voting interests in the affected condominium.

5.  This paragraph does not apply to timeshare condominium associations, which shall be governed by s. 721.24.

Section 718.1085, Florida Statutes, is amended to read:

718.1085  Certain regulations not to be retroactively applied.— Notwithstanding the provisions of chapter 633 or of any other code, statute, ordinance, administrative rule, or regulation, or any interpretation thereof, an association, condominium, or unit owner is not obligated to retrofit the common elements or units of a residential condominium that meets the definition of "housing for older persons" in s.760.29(4)(b)3. to comply with requirements relating to handrails and guardrails if the unit owners have voted to forego such retrofitting by the affirmative vote of two-thirds of all voting interests in the affected condominium. However, a condominium association may not vote to forego the retrofitting in common areas in a high-rise building. For the purposes of this section, the term "high-rise building" means a building that is greater than 75 feet in height where the building height is measured from the lowest level of fire department access to the floor of the highest occupiable level. For the purposes of this section, the term "common areas" means stairwells and exposed, outdoor walkways and corridors, but does not include individual balconies. In no event shall the local authority having jurisdiction require retrofitting of common areas with handrails and guardrails before the end of 2024.

(1)  A vote to forego retrofitting may not be obtained by general proxy or limited proxy, but shall be obtained by a vote personally cast at a duly called membership meeting, or by execution of a written consent by the member, and shall be effective upon the recording of a certificate attesting to such vote in the public records of the county where the condominium is located. The association shall provide each unit owner written notice of the vote to forego retrofitting of the required handrails or guardrails, or both, in at least 16-point bold type, by certified mail, within 20 days after the association's vote. After such notice is provided to each owner, a copy of such notice shall be provided by the current owner to a new owner prior to closing and shall be provided by a unit owner to a renter prior to signing a lease.

(2)  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. The division shall annually report to the Division of State Fire Marshal of the Department of Financial Services the number of condominiums that have elected to forego retrofitting.

Section 17.  By July 1, 2019, the State Fire Marshal shall issue a data call to all local fire officials to collect data regarding high-rise condominiums greater than 75 feet in height which have not retrofitted with a fire sprinkler system or an engineered life safety system in accordance with ss. 633.208(5) and 718.112(2)(l), Florida Statutes. Local fire officials shall submit such data to the State Fire Marshal and shall include,for each individual building, the address, the number of units, and the number of stories. By July 1, 2020, all data must be received and compiled into a report by city and county. By September 1, 2020, the report must be sent to the Governor, the President of the Senate, and the Speaker of the House of Representatives.

 


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