Older condos face costly fire-safety retrofits

Gov. Scott vetoed a bill that would have extended the 2019 retrofitting deadline

Gov. Rick Scott
Gov. Rick Scott

Unit owners at older condominiums in South Florida and across the state face costly special assessments to install fire safety equipment within three years.

Gov. Rick Scott vetoed a bill that would have allowed condo owner associations to delay or avoid the cost of installing sprinkler systems in older buildings.

Unaffected by the veto are buildings less than 75 feet tall and those built after 1994, when sprinklers became mandatory for newly built structures.

At least 5,600 older condominium buildings in Florida lack sprinkler systems for fire suppression. Fort Lauderdale attorney Donna DiMaggio Berger, a shareholder of law firm Becker & Poliakoff, said residents of more than 200 condominiums in South Florida may have to pay for sprinkler systems.

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Pio Ieraci, president of the Galt Mile Community Association in Fort Lauderdale, said the governor’s veto means condo owners could face special assessments ranging as high was $15,000 to $25,000 to pay for sprinkler installations.

By the end of 2019, state law requires the installation of sprinklers or “engineered life safety systems” in condominiums taller than 75 feet and older than 23 years.

Under House Bill 653, the 2019 deadline would have been extended to 2022 and would have allowed condominium associations to avoid paying for fire-safety retrofits if two-thirds of the residents voted against such retrofits.

But Gov. Scott vetoed the bill, which was sponsored in the House by Rep. George Moraitis, R-Fort Lauderdale, and in the Senate by Kathleen Passidomo, R-Naples. [Sun-Sentinel] – Mike Seemuth