Albert Moore, Attorney at Law

Do We Need An Attorney To Review Every Contract We Sign Or Implement?

Unlike the answer that I gave that you don’t need an attorney for every board meeting, I think it’s a good idea to have an attorney review every contract that is made. Typically, the associations do not adhere to that advice because they don’t want to spend the money, the legal fees and I do understand that there is a balancing act. However, the cost of reviewing a contract whether it’s with a vendor or a cable company or with somebody who cleans roofs, somebody that is going to be painting or landscaping, the cost of reviewing those documents versus the cost of being in litigation because they weren’t reviewed by an attorney firsthand, in my mind the cost benefit is just tremendously outweighed by having an attorney review those contracts even if they are for small amounts of money or even if they are contracts that need to be signed in a hurry.

If you have an attorney or a law firm that is responsive and answers quickly, the one thing to do is to make sure when there are issues that pop up that need attention, I get the attention to those issues as fast as possible so that there is not a delay because if there is a delay, then that may very well hurt the association and the association may say we are not willing to wait so they may go ahead and sign the contract without legal counsel reviewing and then the association pays for that later. So, in my opinion I think its good idea for an association to have those contracts reviewed and to take it one step further outside of that context of association law. I think it’s a good idea for any contract to be reviewed by counsel in between persons. So a lot of times those aren’t reviewed, a lot of times you hear stories about contracts being signed on cocktail napkins and sometimes those deals work and sometimes they don’t work. If they don’t work and they haven’t been reviewed then there is a lot of money, time and anguish that’s spent in litigating the issue. So my advice would be to have the association counsel review all the contracts before they are executed.

How Does Your Firm Assist Condo Associations With Becoming Or Staying Compliant With Retrofitting Fire Sprinkler Systems?

It was a lot easier a couple of years ago. Just for a little background, the sprinkler requirement was, at one point, definitively restricted to buildings that were over 75 feet in height. Then they took that language out of the condominium statute, the height requirement but it’s still in the state fire code so you can argue that it’s still 75 feet and that’s pretty much the prevailing opinion and that still applies to buildings that are over 75 feet. However, there is an argument that could be made that buildings under that fall into it because condo statutes used to have in there that it was 75 feet and all of a sudden that’s missing. They did that for a reason and just didn’t omit it unintentionally, an argument can be made. In fact I have advised some associations that it would probably be a stretch to make that argument but if they wanted to be 100% sure they can follow the opt out procedure that was in place.

Some chose to follow that and some didn’t. The opt out procedure was available through December of 2016 and that time has passed. So unless the law gets amended, at this point, if you are over 75 feet then you cannot opt out and you are required to have the plan or the intent provided to the state by 2019 and then I believe, it’s 2020 where you actually have to have those signs installed. If the time for opting out of that has passed, unless something else comes up. Now, there is a provision that if the condo association opted out but now they want to rescind that and actually have the fire sprinkler system, there is a procedure in place for that as well. One other thing that’s worthy to note is that even the associations that did in fact opt out whether they were under the 75 feet and wanted to be extra safe or they were over 75 feet and they definitely are required to either do the retrofitting or to opt out, they still had to have what is called an engineered life safety system.

So even though you don’t have to have sprinklers at par to the code for the retrofitting, you still have to have a system in place. So I think there is kind of this misconception that if you opted out, you don’t have to do anything as far as fire safety goes other than maybe accident insurance but that is not the case. You still have to have an engineered life safety system in place but for opting out, that time has passed, so we’ll just keep an eye on the statutes and see what happens. If an association wants to go back to retrofitting, then there is a procedure in place and we can help them on that. But as far as opting out at this point, that is no longer a statutory option available for you.

For more information on Having A Contract Reviewed By Counsel, an initial consultation is your next best step. Get the information and legal answers you are seeking by calling (772) 242-3600 today.

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