J.M. from Sarasota County, Florida writes:
Dear Mister Condo,
Our buildings are 1970 villa-style with 2 villas sharing one common wall which does not continue into the attic space so the attic is fully open without firewalls. Separate a/c handlers for each unit are located in the attic. Owners are responsible for roofs. Can the association be required to install firewalls?
Mister Condo replies:
J.M., local building codes at the time the buildings were constructed should have dictated if firewalls were required at that time. Since the buildings were built 50 years ago, I think we will have to assume they were up to code at that time. Installing firewalls is a sound idea but I doubt the association is required to do so. A better approach would be to petition the Board to add discussion of firewalls to an upcoming meeting agenda. Provide them with as much information on the subject as possible so they can make an informed decision. I had a similar question in 2013 – https://askmistercondo.com/condo-firewall-law-question/ I had asked a building engineer for his opinion and he echoed what I said but he added that he would like to see firewalls between units for pure safety reasons. He also added that is any work were done in the attic (not the roof), the firewall would likely be required as building codes have changed over the years. Good luck!
3 thoughts on “Condo Attic Firewalls Likely Not Required 50 Years Ago”
There was a complex fire just this week in my state, a fast-moving fire ran the entire length of the cockloft impacting 10 units down the line, and required help from several towns. It would probably be heavy lifting to get anything approved, but worth pursuing. Possibly having an engineering study that would include fire safety improvements would a good place to start, as an expert might have additional suggestions to make an old building voluntarily safer. The study could be a good base for reserving. My experience is not too many people would want an assessment related to improving fire safety, it is an underrated concern – but cosmetics, that would catch their fancy.
I am living in a condo that has a HOA Board. Who do I petition to have fire walls installed in the attic between condos in my building? What is the law regarding firewalls for buildings built in Austin, Texas 40 years ago?
S.D., as long as the building were built to code at the time of construction, they are likely well within code for that time. Petition the Board and ask about updating the fire walls in the attic. You can check your local building inspection office for current code. Keep in mind that most code updates grandfather in older construction so your Board may not be under any obligation to update the firewalls. All the best!