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Judge strikes Bloomington smoke-detector ordinance; similar measure pends in Indy

February 21, 2014

A judge’s recent ruling that struck a Bloomington ordinance requiring hard-wired smoke detectors in rental properties comes as the Indianapolis City-County Council considers raising the requirements for all dwellings in Marion County.

Monroe Circuit Judge E. Michael Hoff ruled Feb. 10 that Bloomington’s ordinance was unenforceable because it conflicted with the state’s smoke-detector statute.

Indiana Code 22-11-18-3.5 states that all smoke detectors must be battery operated or hard-wired into the dwelling’s electrical system. “However, the City’s new smoke detector ordinance prohibits battery operated smoke detectors,” Hoff wrote. “For that reason, the City’s ordinance is not enforceable.”

Cohen & Malad P.C. attorney Michael McBride represented Bloomington landlords who opposed the ordinance that would have required the hard-wired devices installed by 2018.
He said Hoff’s ruling came exactly three years after Hoff voided another Bloomington ordinance requiring minimum window sizes, where McBride also represented property owners.

Hoff ruled the Bloomington smoke-detector ordinance could not be enforced without prior approval of the Indiana Fire Prevention and Building Safety Commission.

“It’s commendable what they’re trying to do – they’re trying to save lives,” McBride said. “The question is what hoops do you have to jump through.  … Is it good to enact an ordinance, or is this something (cities) should push to the commission to change state law?”

Indianapolis’ proposed ordinance drafted in late 2013 would require all dwellings in Marion County to have smoke detectors with 10-year non-replaceable batteries or hard-wired devices by July. The ordinance since has been referred back to the Public Safety and Criminal Justice Committee.

 

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