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New Detector Rules Could Add Costs For Bloomington Landlords

Some local property owners question the timing of the discussions and whether they will have the ability to review any proposals.

Smoke detector

Photo: Katy Warner / Flickr

Hardwiring smoke detectors will cost landlords money, but some say the move will not make residents safer.

Owners of rental units in Bloomington could see increased fees and be required to install hardwired smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors in the coming year as part of an update to city code.  Bloomington’s Housing and Neighborhood Development, or HAND, held a public forum Wednesday night to announce proposed updates in Property Code Maintenance.

HAND Director Lisa Abbott says code has not been updated since 2003.

“Since that time we’ve made some changes in how we do things and so we felt like this was the appropriate time for us to bring that code into line with how we need to do business,” Abbott says.

But CFC Properties Vice President of Real Estate Nikki Johnson says the timing couldn’t be worse. She says rental property owners are in the middle of turnovers as students head back to town and many landlords don’t have the time to evaluate the proposed changes.  Abbott says there will be two more public forums held, one in September and another in October which should allow more time for those property owners to review the changes.

Johnson says her company will have to add additional smoke detectors to every unit in order to comply – a very expensive proposition.

“It’s very very cost prohibitive,” Johnson says. “This will be thousands of dollars.”

Abbott says the most common violation HAND sees is a lack of power to smoke detectors. Fire department officials suggested hardwiring them as the best way to fix the problem.

Indiana Code does not require smoke detectors to be hardwired and Horn Properties Manager Doug Horn says such a move does not guarantee safety. Three renters died in a fire in one of his company’s properties where hardwired smoke detectors were installed.  Horn says if the city really wants to write code that promotes safety there are more cost effective ways of doing so.

HAND will evaluate the comments made during the next two public forums and Bloomington’s City Council will vote on the measures near the end of the year.

Kyle Clayton

Kyle Clayton is a WFIU news producer. He is currently studying journalism at Indiana University and comes to WFIU following an internship in the fall of 2011. After serving in the U.S. Army, he returned home to Indiana in 2008 to begin his education and pursue his interests in writing.

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  • Jack_M_eoph

    If occupants don’t keep the batteries changed & a fire occurs during a power outage (a very good possibility), they’ve still got nothing alarming. Should we make landlords put electric generator systems in with automatic switches?
    Plenty of tenants keep their batteries changed, but now their will rent go up because their landlord has to install something unnecessary for responsible people.
    At some point we have to hold people accountable for their own welfare or else we will bankrupt society trying to make the whole world idiot proof.
    Ask a hand inspector if they check if all the detector batteries work when they inspect.
    Ask them if they check the date on detectors to make sure they are not over 10 years old, when, no mater which type they are, they become increasingly slow to detect smoke or fire.
    Hand should do a self analysis to see what they could do better within their existing budget to improve conditions for tenants & stop burdening landlords & tenants alike with the high cost of idiot proofing Bloomington.

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