On May 15th, the New York State Fire Prevention and Building Code Council, at the request of the New York State Department of State, the department responsible for promulgating rules and regulations prescribing minimum standards for administration and enforcement of the New York State Uniform Fire Prevention and Building Code, postponed a decision that would require the installation of fire sprinklers in all newly constructed one and two-family homes and townhouses in New York State. The issue was raised in the Council Report issued on June 16, 2009. The report states, in part, “There has been an ongoing national process to develop fire sprinklers that enhance life safety and are affordable … and to improve the chance for occupants to escape or be evacuated.” In that same report, the Department of State Office of Fire Prevention and Control stated, “that for 2002 through 2007, an annual average of 10,322 fires and 47 associated civilian fatalities occur in one and two-family homes, representing 41 percent of all reported structure fires and 67 percent of civilian fatalities in all structure fires. From 2005 through 2007, fire service casualties involving interior fighting operations in one and two-family dwellings in New York State, excluding New York City, included between 107 and 105 injuries per year and zero deaths.” The proposal before the Council has the support of the New York State Fire Marshalls & Inspectors Association.
The New York State Association of Realtors, which boasts a statewide membership of approximately 47,000 real estate professionals, strongly opposes the idea. It has asked its members to take action by sending a letter to the New York State Fire Prevention and Building Code Council, Secretary of State Cesar Perales, and Governor Andrew Cuomo noting their opposition. I requested that Anthony Gatto, Esq., Director of Legal Services for NYSAR, articulate the association’s position. The information he provided states, in part: “The decision should be a consumer choice. Mandating sprinklers will unquestionably increase the price of building, owning and maintaining a home, and will therefore negatively impact the New York Housing market. Local municipalities are also currently able to adopt local laws requiring sprinklers in new construction if after review of existing local factors including water source, supply, farming, flow, pressure, access and other practical considerations, they deem it appropriate.”
NYSAR’s position addresses an issue particularly pertinent to the Peconic Bay Region. It states concern “about the impact this mandate would have on rural housing. Homes being constructed that are not connected to a municipal water source would be required to have additional equipment installed in order to comply with the mandate. This includes, but is not limited to, a pump to provide the necessary water pressure to the sprinkler system and a water storage tank the size of a one car garage to provide the necessary volume of water.” NYSAR also points out that on August 5, 2014, Governor Cuomo signed legislation that requires any builder who is contracting to construct a one or a two family residence under three stories in height, to provide the buyer with information prepared by the Office of Fire Prevention and Control regarding the installation of fire sprinklers prior to entering into a contract for the construction of such dwelling.
As a point of information, on December 3, 2014, a law went into effect in New York State requiring all leases to contain a clause stating whether or not there was a fire sprinkler system installed in the dwelling, the last date of inspection, and by whom.