We Didn’t Start the Fire – But We’re Putting It Out!

Wow. This Fire Sprinkler Statute is a Disaster. Time is ticking on Condominium Sprinkler Compliance, see my previous Alerts Times Up and Fire Sprinkler Q&A. Rather than “Fuel The Fire” with more debate, from the world of pundits and committees, we are working hard to put out the fire and resolve this critical question.

There is tremendous confusion raining down on the upcoming Sprinkler Opt Out Law and its Fast Approaching 12/31/16 Deadline. The only definitive ruling would come from either the Florida Legislature, or a Florida Appellate Court – and neither will happen before your Condo Board must act by 12/31/16.

Your Sprinkler Retrofitting Opt-Out Vote Report is soon due to the DBPR. Because it may take your condo (3) months or more to complete all pre-voting procedures, obtain sufficient proxies, and comply with statutory voting requirements, we’ve taken matters into our own hands and filed a formal Expedited Petition (Lawsuit) For Declaratory Statement (regarding your obligation under the Fire Sprinkler Opt Out Statute).

We researched the fastest/most effective way to obtain a definitive ruling: file a Formal Petition (Lawsuit) Pro-Bono with the DBPR.

The DBPR must respond to our Expedited Petition (Lawsuit), and when it does, we will obtain the binding decision regarding who the Statute applies to and what the Statute actually means. We’ve undertaken this legal work Pro Bono again because we care about how this law will affect your condominium association.

Just in case you’ve been out of reach hiking in the Himalayas, here are the issues:

- In 2010, the Florida Fire Sprinkler Retrofitting Statute was changed and the “high-rise” condominium language was removed. The applicable Florida Statute, §718.112(2)(1)(l) – (“L” as in lemon) is now silent regarding whether the Statute applies to low-rise and mid-rise condominiums.

- Low-rise condos and their professional managers are in a panic – and rightfully so. I mean, why should you (as a low-rise condo) have to spend the time and money to opt out if the Statute doesn’t apply to you? Don’t you have enough to worry about? We absolutely agree.

- But at last! Clarification from the DBPR! On July 8, 2016, Tony Doris from the Palm Beach Post published an article quoting a representative from the DBPR. In the article, Travis Keels, deputy director of communications for the DBPR stated “Generally speaking, the fire sprinkler requirement applies to all residential condominiums for the DBPR.” Yes! The answer we’ve been waiting for (and ahem, it mirrors what we’ve been telling people all along).

- Uh oh. On July 28, 2016, Senator Jeremy Ring wrote a letter to Kevin Stanfield Director of the Division of Florida Condominiums, Timeshares, and Mobile Homes. He stated that the Division was providing misinformation regarding this Statute applying to low-rise condominiums because the Statute does not apply to low rise condominiums. He also stated that it was not his intent, nor the Legislature’s intent to cause a burden to low-rise condominiums by forcing them to comply with this Statute. Hmm, now this shows the legislative intent. Interesting, but not binding.

- Another uh oh. This month, The Florida Fire Sprinkler Association, Inc. and the American Fire Sprinkler Association – Florida, issued a joint press release. This Press Release can be found on the home page of their website and it is being circulated by licensed community association management companies across Florida. The Press Release states, “There is no statutory fire sprinkler retrofit requirement for existing mid-rise or low-rise condominiums and therefore no need to vote to opt out.”

- Clarity? This month, the DBPR, Division of Florida Condominiums, Timeshares and Mobile Homes issued a statement regarding fire sprinkler retrofitting. This statement only states that the Statute does not “mandate associations install fire sprinklers” rather it provides associations until December 31, 2016 the “opportunity to vote to forego retrofitting.” This statement does not address whether low-rise and mid-rise condominiums must conduct a vote and submit a form to the DBPR before December 31, 2016.

Again, this doesn’t answer the question. Do low-rise condos need to hold a vote and opt out before December?

To date, there is no clarification from the DBPR whether Florida Statute §718.112(2)(1)(l) applies to low-rise and mid-rise condominiums. The DBPR is the administrative body that enforces this Statute and even the DBPR seem confused.

This is why we took action TODAY. The DBPR must soon respond to our Expedited Petition (Lawsuit) given the fact that tens of thousands of condo owners are affected.

We’ll let you know if we need your help to bombard the DBPR to ensure an immediate response to our formal Petition (Lawsuit).

Trust that together, we will get things done.

* Special thanks to Dory Villas on Lake Miona Condo Association for permitting me to name them Representative for this critical State-Wide issue.

Yours in Community,

Alan Garfinkel

Community Association Network (CAN)

Chairman of the Board of Directors




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