Mayor proposes crackdown on buildings without smoke detectors

SHARE Mayor proposes crackdown on buildings without smoke detectors

Chicago would get tough on landlords who endanger tenants by thumbing their noses at the city’s smoke detector and carbon monoxide detector ordinances, under a mayoral crackdown proposed Wednesday in response to a fatal fire.

Last month, four children died in a Roseland fire in a building without working smoke detectors in the second-floor apartment where the fire is believed to have started.

The 18-unit building that burned in the 11200 block of South Vernon had reportedly failed nearly two dozen inspections over the last nine years.

The most recent inspection — on June 9 — cited the building owner for failing to install and maintain working smoke detectors, City Hall said.

The city’s Law Department was planning to file a lawsuit against the building owner, but didn’t get around to it before the fatal fire.

On Wednesday, Mayor Rahm Emanuel cited the deadly Roseland fire as the impetus for his proposed crackdown.

It would get tough on landlords who fail to install or maintain working smoke and carbon monoxide detectors by no longer allowing landlords who fix or install detectors after the fact to escape hefty fines.

The ordinance would repeal “post-citation compliance” as an “affirmative defense” and increase the daily minimum fine from $300 to $500. The maximum daily fine would be $1,000.

“The law, as written, provides no incentive for landlords to install smoke and carbon monoxide detectors in their units as they can comply after they are ticketed to avoid a fine,” Emanuel was quoted as saying in a news release.

Citing the Roseland fire that claimed the lives of four children, the mayor said, “There is no excuse for landlords who seek to avoid the minimal cost and labor to install smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. This proposed ordinance will strengthen the laws we have to enforce these important public safety provisions.”

Buildings Commissioner Felicia Davis said the crackdown is aimed at “closing a dangerous loophole” and ensuring compliance before citations are issued instead of allowing landlords to wait “weeks or months” to comply.

The National Fire Protection Association has analyzed fire fatalities nationwide between 2007 and 2011 and concluded that 60 percent of those deaths occurred in residential buildings with either no smoke detectors or malfunctioning smoke detectors.

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