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Elevator Upgrades May be Costly & Complicated

Lisa A. Magill, Florida Lawyer, Real Estate AttorneyState of Florida’s Division of Administrative Hearings finds that Industry Bulletins and Technical Advisories issued by Bureau of Elevator Safety are not improperly adopted rules.

Retrofits required for Universal Elevator Keys, Automatic Fire Alarm Initiating Devices and Replacement of Single Wall Hydraulic Cylinders.

A state or municipality may require building owners or occupants to make improvements essential to life safety. The public has a right to the safest method of protection and the government generally has the duty to provide such protection. Accordingly, a local government may require reasonable changes in buildings previously built in order to comply with new codes and standards for the protection of health and safety, notwithstanding the fact that the buildings and improvements, at the time of construction, complied with the regulations then in effect.

A factor to be considered when analyzing the validity of regulations requiring changes in existing buildings, is whether the public welfare demands retroactive application, and whether the property owners are unreasonably burdened vis-à-vis the public benefit. The question then is whether the burden upon the property owner is so great compared to the public benefit that the ordinance must be held invalid. Courts have found that there are “no hard and fast rules” in these cases.

A court will analyze the application of the ordinance or code from a cost-benefit perspective and determine whether the ordinance is reasonable as applied to existing buildings or whether the ordinance deprives the owners of their property rights without due process. As you might imagine, on life safety issues, the courts will ordinarily be inclined to rule in favor of the exercise of the government police power.

Government agencies themselves are often at odds with each other with regard to enforcement of codes and retroactive application of building safety requirements. Recently the City of Miami Beach was at odds with the Department of Business and Professional Regulation, Division of Hotels and Restaurants over enforcement of Industry Bulletins and Technical Advisories issued by the Bureau of Elevator Safety requiring compliance with standards published by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers.

The Department of Professional Regulation indicated that it specifically intended to “require the single wall hydraulic cylinder safety provision of the ASME A17.1, 2000 Code [Section] to be enforced as part of the annual elevator inspection.” It indicated that this provision was “so important to life safety that corrective action is required for all existing single wall hydraulic cylinder elevators.”

Extensions and variances are available under certain, but limited, circumstances. Please contact us if your community needs advice how to handle an adverse Elevator Inspection Report.


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  • ken blyth
    May 18, 2009

    Our association has been told we must upgrade our well maintained and functioning four story fire alarm. how do we appeal this ruling. The cost is going to be close to $50,000.00 for two buildings. our units exit onto exterior walkways not internal halls as most buildings.

  • Jeff
    May 19, 2009

    Another interesting post by Lisa.
    Do you think the same situation exists with regard
    to the National Fire Protection Association Code requirements (adopted by statute in Florida) that all existing buildings with more than 11 residential units upgrade their fire alarm systems to include every imaginable bell, whistle, flashing light, horn etc the engineers at NFPA can imagine — at exhorbitant cost — and to the delight of alarm installers, fire marshals, permit issuers and inspectors and every other group who profits off extravagant claims of knowing what is meant by ‘the public good’?