The protest signs were clear: “Know the facts before voting on Bill 220299.”

City Council still hasn’t figure out that when proposed laws threaten peoples’ livelihoods, they show up outside City Hall.

That’s exactly what members of Hapco Philadelphia and the Pennsylvania Apartment Association (PAA) did September 21st to protest a planned bill that would mandate putting sprinklers into existing high-rise buildings over 75 feet tall.

“The devastating cost of Councilman Mark Squilla’s bill would drive many rental property owners out of business,” says Hapco President Greg Wertman, who attended the protest.

“And if this bill passes, our fear is that City Council would come after the small, independent Mom and Pop rental owners who are the majority of Hapco’s members.”

The PAA commissioned several studies that show retrofitting high-rise buildings with sprinklers would cost $27,000 to $50,000 per unit, and that doesn’t include the cost of relocating tenants and the annual expense of maintaining a sprinkler system.

And Wertman adds that a rental owner’s insurance costs would skyrocket with the addition of a sprinkler system.

“Those stratospheric costs would bankrupt most rental owners and drive many to sell out, further eroding Philly’s affordable rental housing stock,” adds Wertman.

Both PAA and Hapco Philadelphia contend that strict enforcement of existing fire codes would achieve the same safety result as a costly sprinkler bill without bankrupting the city’s rental property owners.

Hapco Philadelphia Board Member Robert Levin also attended the sprinkler bill protest and noted the more than 50 people from PAA and Hapco Philadelphia speaks volume about the impact.  “It was an impressive sight to see concerned businesspeople from the industry come together in solidarity and voice our collective angst over the never-ending overreach of government,” Levin said.

“It is also telling that those who seemingly would benefit the most from new requirements turned tail when they heard we were protesting en masse.”

Levin was referring to the abrupt cancellation of a fire suppression demonstration by the National Fire Sprinkler Association and Sprinkler Fitters Local 692 that had been scheduled following the Hapco Philadelphia and PAA protest.