Council votes 8-1 for CO detector requirement

Landlords must install equipment on qualifying units

By Melanie Yingst -

TROY — On Tuesday, city council voted 8-1 to require city of Troy residential properties, which qualify under the law, to have carbon monoxide detectors installed by landlords.

The requirement is effective immediately for all rental properties that use fuel-burning heat sources. For example, electric heat units are exempt from the requirement. A letter explaining the requirement will be sent to all land lords listed in the city of Troy’s database, according to staff.

• All real property owners who rent a building or structure to residential tenants that contains a fuel-burning appliance, or a building that has an attached garage, must equip the building with one or more single-station carbon monoxide alarms. There are exceptions related to certain types of sleeping units or dwelling units.

• That property owner is required to supply and install the alarm, ensure that any batteries associated with the alarm are in operating condition when the occupant takes possession of the property, and provide the occupant with written information regarding alarm testing and maintenance. The occupant is to install any later needed batteries, provide testing and general maintenance, and notify the owner in writing of any deficiencies the occupant cannot correct.

The legislation is in response to the upcoming one year anniversary of the deaths of three children who died from carbon monoxide poisoning at their rental home on Elm Street on the weekend of Feb. 27, 2015.

Council member Robin Oda voted no on the amended ordinance. Oda filed a minority report against the amended changes. According to the safety and health committee report, Oda said it “is a matter that should be clearly defined in writing in any lease agreement between a landlord and renter, setting forth the responsibilities of each.”

Prior to the vote, Troy attorney Bob Huffman said the Bishop-Jones family supported the legislation.

Huffman represents the grandmother, Jean Bishop, who was the legal custodian of the three children who died of carbon monoxide poisoning on the weekend of Feb. 27, 2015. The Troy Police Department found no criminal basis to charge the landlords, Joe and Kathy Caldwell of Troy, months later. A civil suit is still pending in Miami County Common Pleas Court.

“I think this case is a perfect example of why you need to enact this,” said Huffman.

Huffman said the heating system inside the Elm Street home “was a disaster waiting to happen,” providing photos of the home’s furnace at the time of the tragedy.

“Not every landlord puts their tenants first, not every landlord is dedicated to a safe rental unit. Sometimes in the democratic process where it is uneven, I think you need to step in and provide some safe guards. Really, we are protecting the poor and the disadvantaged,” Huffman said.

Troy resident Lester Conard said the legislation was another example of more mandates for property owners. Conard also commented he believed medical officials also missed warning signs of the CO poisoning during the treatment of Jean Bishop days prior to the children passing, which could have prevented future harm.

During committee reports, council member John Schweser asked about the penalties involved if a landlord fails to install or maintain a carbon monoxide detector.

Law director Grant Kerber said the first offense, a minor misdemeanor, has a maximum fine of $150 with no jail time.

“We are seeking voluntarily compliance. The penalty section would just be utilized for the people who have been informed of the law and chose not to follow it,” Kerber said.

A fourth degree misdemeanor conviction could only be imposed after subsequent misdemeanor convictions of non-compliance. The fourth degree misdemeanor penalty would be a maximum of 30 days in jail and a $250 fine. Kerber said probation and other remediation could also be ordered by the court.

Chief Matt Simmons said the CO amendment is not much different than when the 2011 law required smoke detectors to be installed in all new construction and homes.

Chief Simmons said in terms of legal process, such issues may arise such as with structure fires that reveal negligence on behalf of the owner, not the tenant.

Simmons said the fire department will not be knocking on doors or inspecting properties, but will continue to educate the public. Information provided by the fire department will accompany letters to the city’s landlords about the CO detectors and how they need to be installed safely in their properties.

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Landlords must install equipment on qualifying units

By Melanie Yingst

Reach Melanie Yingst at or follow her online @Troydailynews

Reach Melanie Yingst at or follow her online @Troydailynews