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City Council Enacts Package of Fire Safety Bills

More Burdens for Owners

At the City Council Stated Meeting on May 9th, the Council unanimously passed a package of bills with regard to fire safety that will soon be signed into law by Mayor Bill de Blasio.

The bills were initially introduced as a direct result of residential fires that occurred towards the end of 2017, particularly one in the Bronx that killed 12 people shortly before the new year. Although the new bills are well intentioned, RSA urged the bill sponsors to amend some of the legislation as a result of their redundancy to existing laws.

Out of the eight bills passed in the fire safety package, five of them are particularly important for rental property owners:

Intro. 604-A requires the installation of photo-electric smoke detectors within 20 feet of a cooking device after January 1, 2021 when replacing an existing smoke detector. All ionization alarm technology detectors will be phased out after 2021 and photo-electric smoke detectors can begin to be installed any time before that in areas near cooking appliances.

RSA had expressed concern over recently replaced smoke alarms where tenants were responsible for the $25 fee for smoke alarms and $50 for combo smoke/carbon monoxide alarms. As a result, bill sponsor Council Member Robert Cornegy Jr. took into consideration RSA’s recommendation to have the installation of photo-electric smoke detectors phased in over time.

Intro. 610-A will require owners to notify tenants with children under six years old annually that the owner must provide tamperproof knob covers for all gas-powered stoves. This bill, sponsored by Council Member Ritchie Torres, was introduced after the deadly fire in the Bronx that started because of a child playing with the stove inside his family’s apartment.

The original legislation called for knob covers to be provided to tenants with children under 10 years old. However, RSA’s concerns were heard and the age was lowered to six. RSA’s biggest concern with this impending law is enforcement, since tenants remove such knob covers frequently. Please keep in mind that the tenant has the right to opt-out of this program.

Intro. 602-A will now make failure to maintain self-closing doors in apartments and stairwells a class C violation. The original text of the bill called for all such doors to be self-closing; however, the current law already requires these doors to be self-closing.
RSA supported this bill to the extent that we encourage all rental property owners to keep all doors in good repair. However, tenants often remove pins from the hinges of the doors and can put owners in a situation where violations are issued frequently. Once this bill becomes law, it is vital that owners monitor apartment and stairwell doors to avoid violations.

Intro. 608-A will require owners to post in a conspicuous location a notice that advises tenants to close doors in the event of a fire. This bill, also sponsored by Council Member Ritchie Torres, was introduced in conjunction with Intro. 610-A because the family in the Bronx apartment where the fire was started did not close the door upon evacuation.

Building owners are already required to post fire safety notices on the back of each apartment door stating that the door must be closed in the event of a fire. Owners are also required to post similar notices in building lobbies, as well as provide fire safety plans to tenants annually that also state that doors must be closed when there is a fire.

Council Member Torres’ bill does not state that any other notices will be required in addition to those that owners already post and provide to tenants. Therefore, as long as owners continue to comply with the existing law with relation to such notices, this particular bill will not affect you.

Lastly, Intro. 606-A will require the City Fire Department (FDNY), City Office of Emergency Management (OEM) and the Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities to promulgate a checklist by March 1, 2019 for tenants with disabilities that will advise them about specific evacuation procedures in the event of a fire or other emergencies.
According to the bill, the checklist will be available on OEM’s website and owners will likely be required to include the checklist in the building fire safety plan. We will keep you apprised on how this will be implemented once the checklist is completed by FDNY and OEM.
Furthermore, once the bills are signed into law by Mayor de Blasio, we will notify you of the effective start date of each law in an upcoming issue of the RSA Reporter. n

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