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All Bloomington Rental Units Must Have Hard-Wired Smoke Detectors
Updated May 5, 2013 1:09 AM
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(BLOOMINGTON) - The Bloomington City Council unanimously approved a highly debated provision Wednesday night requiring all rental units to install hard-wired, interconnected smoke detectors.

The mandate requires that all battery-powered smoke detectors be upgraded on the basis that hard-wired interconnected smoke detectors are more durable and less prone to malfunction, City Clerk Regina Moore said.

On Oct. 1, 2011, IU student Renee Ohrn died in a fire at Terra Trace Apartments. The smoke detector in the apartment where the fire started had been removed several days prior.

The newly required upgrades have received opposition from landlords due to high costs of installation. The smoke detectors would cost about $500 per unit and have a service life-span of 10 years, council member Martin Spechler said.

The council's original proposed changes were amended after the council refrained from voting on the legislation at the Common Council meeting Nov. 7.

The most drastic amendment extended the deadline for the smoke detector upgrades from 2014 to Dec. 31, 2018, council member Darryl Neher said. This extension was put forth in order to allow landlords additional time to gather needed revenues to meet the costs of smoke detector compliancy.

Prior to passing the ordinance during Wednesday night's meeting, the council voted 8-1 to pass the deadline extension amendment, with Spechler providing the only opposing vote. Spechler argued that the extension provided too long a time frame to address the hazards.

During the public comment portion of the meeting, landlords once again voiced their concerns with the high costs, which the landlord for Varsity Properties said would amount to more than $200,000 worth of installations across all of his properties. However, several landlords expressed their appreciation of the timeframe extension, saying it would help lessen the financial burden.

Smoke detector upgrades make up one of several chapters of new provisions in the City's Property Maintenance code, Title 16. Others include increased inspection fees and a provision requiring attached garages in rental units be equipped with carbon monoxide detectors, according to the legislation documents.

Council member Darryl Neher emphasized that despite the extended deadline for installation, the council will work with landlords and the Housing and Neighborhood Development Department to find ways to provide incentives for early installation.

Vice President Susan Sandberg said due to the large presence of rental properties in the city, she believes the smoke detector provision marks a crucial safety improvement.

"Sixty percent of housing in Bloomington comes from rental properties," Sandberg said. "It is the right thing to do with respect to safety in this community. It could save a life."

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