Letters to the Editor, Nov. 12

Cartoon by Jim Meadows

Cartoon by Jim Meadows

Smoke gets in your eyes

The Tenants Association gets frequent queries as to the legitimacy of management’s installing a dual carbon monoxide/smoke detector and charging $50.00. This typically occurs when a tenant requests a replacement battery for an existing smoke alarm or when management makes an apartment inspection. While the TA has questioned other surprise charges, according to the New York City Rent Guidelines Board, this charge is permitted.

To quote the RGB’s Frequently Asked Questions: “The NYC Housing Maintenance Code requires landlords to provide and install smoke detecting devices in each apartment unit. All smoke detectors must now use a non-removable, non-replaceable battery that powers the alarm for a minimum of 10 years, and shall be of the type that emits an audible notification at the expiration of the useful life of the alarm. The owner may charge the tenant up to $25 per smoke detector (or $50 for a combined smoke/carbon monoxide detector).

“Landlords are also required to provide and install at least one approved carbon monoxide alarm within each dwelling unit. The landlord may charge the tenant $25 per carbon monoxide alarm (or $50 for a combined smoke/carbon monoxide detector).”

Other questions the TA gets are: Why install a joint detector if tenants have a functioning smoke detector? That way, the tenant would only need to pay $25.00. Furthermore, why can’t tenants buy their own combo detector? In fact, why do we need a carbon monoxide detector?

New York City requires the installation and maintenance of smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors. Both property owners and tenants have responsibilities to ensure that all New Yorkers remain safe in their homes from the dangers of fire and carbon monoxide poisoning. Landlords are required to ensure that tenants are provided with both carbon monoxide (CO) and smoke detectors (SD) that comply with the physical requirements of the Building Code.

New York City rules require that where a smoke alarm was installed prior to April 2014 and the useful life of the alarm is not known, “that it be replaced with the newly required model within seven years of the effective date and that the owner is responsible for providing and installing the detector.” The landlord also has to make sure that the device complies with applicable guidelines and has to keep records of installation. Filing is required when devices are changed according to the requirement timeframes or whenever broken/missing devices are replaced.

The occupant has one year from the date of the installation to make the reimbursement (bet you didn’t know that).

The Tenants Association is still looking to see if an exemption for STPCV is possible because our complex uses steam heat, which does not have a carbon monoxide risk. However, our research is still ongoing. In the meantime, please know that the installation of dual carbon monoxide and smoke detectors is legitimate and the $50 fee is an unfortunate, but legal burden.

It is always better to err on the side of safety for our valuable community.

Susan Steinberg
President, STPCV Tenants Association

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