As previously reported by the Community Association Group, automatic fire suppression systems have been required by state law in residential buildings of six stories or higher with common elements since 1989, while older condominium and co-op buildings have been exempt from these requirements. Last year, the DCA proposed amendments to the New Jersey’s State Fire Prevention Code, specifically, N.J.A.C. 5:70-4.17, which would require older high-rises – both residential and commercial – to be retrofitted to include fire suppression systems. The DCA indicated that the change was prompted as a result of the special hazard and life-safety issues that high-rises represent in rescue and firefighting operations.
Common interest communities and co-ops throughout New Jersey would incur significant expenses in order to retrofit these older building to comply with the new law. The issue affects over 450 high-rise buildings statewide. The DCA has received numerous letters from the public on this issue regarding the financial impact it would have on these buildings. Community Affairs Commissioner, Joseph Doria, has stated that the potential financial impact of the proposed regulation is one that hard-working families and senior citizens cannot endure at this time.
The Corzine administration announced on Monday, September 15, 2008 that it will not require the pre-1988 residential and office high-rises to be retrofitted with fire suppression systems. The decision settles the controversy of state and fire safety officials for now. Additional measures are being discussed to require fire protection that will work with all parties involved.
We will continue to monitor this proposal and provide timely updates as to its progress.