As we know, The Florida Legislature is having trouble fixing the problems of allowing condominium buildings to waive reserves, who the reserve studies should be performed by and how often the buildings should require safety certification by local building officials. The issue of course is how hard are we going to hit condo owners financially? Hard, very hard or basically bankrupt those associations that have waived reserves for decades.
Lurking in the background is another potentially devastating problem for high rise condominiums; fire safety. Well, let me remind high rise condominiums what is lurking just around the corner.
Florida Statute 718.112 states:
(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.
For those condominiums that have already installed a sprinkler system or engineered life safety system, you’re OK and have nothing to work about. However, even if the owners voted to forego sprinklers, STARTING ON JANUARY 1, 2024 YOUR LOCAL BUILDING OFFICIAL CAN AND WILL FORCE YOUR ASSOCIATION TO HAVE AN ENGINEERED LIFE SAFETY SYSTEM. THE BOTTOM LINE IS THAT ONE OR THE OTHER IS REQUIRED.
There are many many many high-rise condominiums throughout the state that voted to opt out of sprinklers, thinking that the fire safety issue is in the rear view mirror. They were wrong. An engineered life safety system is still required. The bottom line is that by January 1st, 2024 you better either have sprinklers or an engineered life safety system. Both are not cheap, yet both promote the health, welfare and safety of the occupants of the condominium building. For years however The Florida Legislature kept extending the mandatory installation date and kicked that can down the road, the same way they ignored the disaster that would happen if we let unit owners completely waive the funding of reserve accounts. I don’t see them kicking this can any further down the road.
So, consider this a friendly reminder to those communities who have neither sprinklers nor an engineered life safety system. When The Florida Legislature finally fixes the issue of reserve funding you will be paying more each month, no doubt. And in about a year and a half you better have installed either an engineered life safety system or sprinklers in your high rise condominium. That won’t come cheap either.
If you’re Board is not thinking about and already preparing for these massive financial increases that are eventually coming, they are shirking their responsibilities and need to put their big boy or girl pants on, face the music and pass a budget that starts taking the increases that are coming, into consideration. Buckle up condo owners because especially for those high rise condominiums that have no sprinklers, no engineered life safety system and no reserve accounts, it’s going to be an incredibly bumpy ride.