By Jan Bergemann

Published 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 years.

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 residents?

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 ever learn?

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Jan Bergemann Jan Bergemann is president of Cyber Citizens For Justice, Florida 's largest state-wide property owners' advocacy group. CCFJ works on legislation to help owners living in community  

associations. He moved to Florida 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 Tallahassee - 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 Florida 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 in Florida !

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