Condominium Fire Sprinkler System Requirements

Posted on: December 4, 2019
Fire sprinkler system

Q&A: Condominium Fire Sprinkler System Requirements

Q: Our association opted out in 2005 to retrofit our condominium with fire sprinkler system requirements.
Does our Association need to obtain an additional vote after various amendments to the Statute have been
enacted since the opt-out vote took place? Also, if we opted out properly, are we still obligated to install an
Engineered lift Safety System “ELSS.”

Legislative History

A: In the 1990s, Florida law was changed to require all new high-rises in the state to be outfitted
with fire sprinkler systems. Condominium were given a grace period so owners could plan for the cost of
retrofitting units and complexes and hash out how to update common areas. In 2002, the Florida Fire
Protection Code, §31.3.5.12, of the National Fire Protection Association 101 required existing “high-rise”
buildings to be protected either by an automatic sprinkler system or by an “engineered life safety system”
(hereinafter ELSS). In 2003 a law was passed allowing owners to opt out of the retrofit with a membership
vote. The deadline has been pushed back multiple times since then.
This year there was a concentrated lobbying effort to pass new ELSS opt-out legislation but,
ultimately, again, time ran out on a full opt-out bill.  In the recent 2019 legislative session, lawmakers
provided yet another extension and provided condo owners to face a Jan. 1, 2024, deadline to get up to
code.

Analysis

To determine whether retrofitting is required, the first question to ask is whether the retrofitting
applies to your condominium. This requirement only applies to high-rise buildings that are greater than 75
feet tall. The Condominium Act does not require a typical low-rise condominium to undertake a retrofit
installation.

If your building is greater than 75 feet tall, a residential condominium that is not in compliance with
the requirements for a fire sprinkler system must by December 31, 2024. Section 718.112(2)(l), Florida
Statutes, is quite clear on the requirements to install a fire sprinkler system. “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. 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.”
A condominium association’s requirements for the implementation of the ELSS, which comes from
the Florida Fire Prevention Code (the “FFPC”), defines an ELSS as a system which contains any or all of
the following systems:

1. partial automatic sprinkler protection,
2. smoke detection alarms,
3. smoke control,
4. compartmentation, and/or
5. other approved lifesaving systems

In regards to whether the 2005 vote was effective, Association must certify the opt out vote, and
718.112 Section (2)(l)(1) is applicable. A vote to forego retrofitting is effective upon recording a certificate
attesting to such vote in the public records of the county where the condominium is located. Notice must be
provided by the association to each unit owner 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. If the Association
met these requirements in 2005, an additional vote is not required. A review of the 2005 statute does not
provide a different set of requirement from what is currently in the 2019 statute.

Conclusion

Pursuant to Florida law, condominiums that are considered high-rise buildings (over 75 feet) are
required to have, or otherwise install, a fire sprinkler system, unless the condominium association had
previously opted out, or is otherwise exempt, as addressed above, by following the proper statutory
protocol. Those high-rise condominiums that did successfully opt out per the statutory requirements, is still
responsible for the installation of an “ELSS.”

As your condominium association opted out of retrofitting before July 1, 2010, the board may want
to consider a new opt-out if the condominium still has not retrofitted fire sprinklers in units. Remember
that even if the opt out vote was successful, it is not “effective” until a certificate is recorded, and then a
unit owner mailing is sent no more than 30-days after vote took place. If the association opted out in
accordance with the statute in effect in 2005 (which does not differ from 2019), the association shouldn’t
need to do so again if the proper procedures were followed for opting out. The association must also file
evidence of the opt-out and fully comply with the aforementioned statute with the Florida Department of
Professional Regulations. As such, the opt-out is only for a sprinkler system but the association must still
install an ELSS if it is a qualifying high-rise.

Friedman Law Associates, P.L. www.FLLegalGroup.com www.FLSinkholeLawyer.com

Click here or call 813.221.9500 / 888.355.3425 for more information

Author: FLLegalGroup
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