UP IN FLAMES?
July 14, 2017
What do you think will happen if your high-rise condo is up in
flames and you try to run down the staircase because in case of
a fire you can’t use the elevator? Remember, you’re not 20
anymore and your running has slowed down to a crawl over the
Wouldn’t you like to have a sprinkler system slowing down the
flames to give you more time to escape the flaming inferno?
I know many condo owners will not like my opinion, but I will
tell you that I am not opposed to the Governor vetoing HB 653,
the bill that would have saved quite a lot of high-rise condos a
lot of money. But isn’t some money worth the safety of its
Remember: Florida is a retirement state with the oldest age
average of the nation. Many retirees have moved to Florida to
live in the Sunshine State – and many of them have moved into
high-rise condos. And there is no argument: Old age has slowed
all of us down! Many retirees living in high-rise condos have
complained that they can’t get out of their units because the
elevator was out of order – and the association didn’t take care
of a timely repair.
In case of fire there are no working elevators. So what are
these folks going to do?
The fight over a sprinkler retro-fitting bill is going on since
more than 15 years – and Governor Scott isn’t the first governor
vetoing such a bill. Already at times when the HOA Task Force
traveled through Florida in 2003-2004 we were confronted with
these issues. At that time the law firm of Becker & Poliakoff
(Donna Berger) was “leading the charge” trying to prevent laws
forcing old high-rise condominiums to retro-fit the building
with sprinkler-systems – claiming to save the poor owners’
money. They may have even had ulterior motives?
But did anyone of them ever think about the safety of the folks
populating these high-rises?
But instead of doing
the right thing – meaning telling condo boards to create reserve
funds to have money in place when the time came to put in the
sprinkler-system as forced by law, board members and law firms
spent lots of money and efforts trying to change the laws. The
buildings in Broward County I call the “Galt Mile Gulag” had in
my opinion never a smart leadership. The place was riddled with
law suits – and law firms had a field day. To my knowledge they
even hired this year the law firm of Becker & Poliakoff (former
Senator Ellyn Bogdanoff) to lobby for this bill preventing them
from installing sprinkler-systems. In my opinion they should
have rather used their money and efforts to start following the
existing laws – creating more safety for the folks living in
these high-rises. But now they are complaining about Governor
Scott instead of looking in the mirror to see the guilty parties
that have caused the financial problems many condo associations
may now face. (
Condo residents bracing for costly assessments after governor
vetoes fire bill )
Since fifteen (15) years it was known that the day will come
when the requirement to retro-fit can no longer be postponed –
and more or less what it will cost to follow the existing laws.
I guess: Now they have to pay the piper?
I just wish association boards would act more like business
executives and make decisions accordingly. It’s a lot easier for
many owners to pay small amounts over a long period of time
instead of facing to pay a huge bulk-payment due on short
notice. We have seen this over and over again. Why don’t people
||Jan Bergemann is president of Cyber Citizens For Justice,
's largest state-wide property owners' advocacy group.
CCFJ works on legislation to help owners living in
associations. He moved to
in 1995 - hoping to retire. He moved into a HOA, where the
developer cheated the homeowners and used the association dues
for his own purposes. End of retirement!
CCFJ was born in the year 2000, when some owners met in
- finding out that power is only in numbers. Bergemann was a
member of Governor Jeb Bush's HOA Task force in 2003/2004.
The organization has two websites to inform interested
homeowners and condo owners:
News Website: http://www.ccfj.net/.
Educational Website: http://www.ccfjfoundation.net/.
We think that only owners can really represent owners, since all
service providers surely have a different interest! We are
trying to create owner-friendly laws, but the best laws are
useless without enforcement. And enforcement is totally lacking