MAR to Testify Against Mandate of Sprinkler Systems in New Residential Builds and Townhomes

July 23, 2009

Source: Doug Merriam
Job Title: West Michigan Public Policy Director
Department: Michigan Association of REALTORS
Phone: (517) 202-7563
Email: dmerriam@mirealtors.com

This week, the MAR will testify in opposition to a proposal to mandate fire sprinkler systems in all new homes through the state construction code. The proposal calls for the installation of these costly systems in all new residential homes and townhouses.

During these hard economic times, citizens are having more difficulties than ever with the home buying and selling market. Add costly government mandates on top of the current market trend, and the odds are stacked against a successful sale of a residential home.

There are already mandates in place for smoke and carbon monoxide detectors in new builds. A 2008 study from the National Fire Prevention Association shows that chances of surviving a reported home fire when working smoke alarms are present is 99.45%. Clearly, every fire death is a tragedy. However, the solution to reducing these deaths isn't mandating expensive sprinkler systems; it is to make sure every home has working smoke alarms.

While our association fully supports voluntary installation of sprinklers at the election of the homeowner, we oppose the proposed code section given its mandatory nature. The average quote a Michigan homebuilder received from a sprinkler contractor for installing a sprinkler system for homes on municipal water was $6,566; for homes with well water, the average was $11,976. In addition, these systems require minimum monthly maintenance, inspections, and in Michigan's colder climate, some systems must be drained and refilled every year. Add the long term costs to maintain and inspect the sprinkler systems, and those figures skyrocket.

The MAR fully supports looking into alternative policies that would be more effective in creating safe homes in Michigan. The MAR has been working alongside the Michigan Association of Home Builders and Habitat for Humanity in opposition of the mandate. We certainly look forward to continue working with all parties involved in this issue on future concepts. As always, we will keep you informed on any news relating to this issue as it progresses.

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