In a reversal of a years-old mandate, owners of existing Maryland residential high-rises will no longer have to retrofit their buildings to include sprinklers throughout the building, including in every unit.
On January 29, 2024, the Office of the Fire Marshal determined that “the Commission’s general determination that existing high-rise buildings be retrofitted with sprinklers will not be enforced.” Stated differently, as a general rule and as of the date of this article, the State of Maryland and the local fire marshals charged with implementing the mandate will no longer require all existing residential high-rise buildings in Maryland to be fully sprinkled.
By way of background, in 2018, the Maryland State Fire Prevention Commission determined that all high-rise residential buildings that are not fully sprinkled are an “inimicable hazard,” i.e., a distinct hazard to life and property. Following this determination, the Maryland State Fire Marshal mandated that all residential high-rise buildings in Maryland be fully sprinkled by January 1, 2033, including condominiums and housing cooperatives. In 1990, all newly constructed high-rise residential buildings were required to be fully sprinkled.
Since the sprinkler retrofit mandate was published, impacted condominiums and housing cooperatives have struggled to determine how to raise the millions to tens of millions of dollars to implement the retrofit. These struggles led to grassroots efforts to educate elected officials about the potential financial costs of the mandate on the residents of the impacted buildings and a review of the legality of the adoption of the sprinkler retrofit mandate.