OCEAN CITY — The Fire Marshal’s office said this week compliance with the town’s carbon monoxide detector law has quadrupled since last fall.
Ocean City Fire Marshal Sam Villani told The Dispatch this week he has received compliance reports from 79 percent of the town’s 32,000 dwelling units (up from just 17 percent in September 2009). Compliance is required under the town’s 2007 ordinance to have CO detectors installed.
Villani cited this number in response to a complaint from a non-resident property owner, who argued that a recent letter he received from the Fire Marshal’s Office informing him that he had a mere seven days to get his condominium unit into compliance with the code rendered him unable to comply in such a short amount of time.
“We have been for the most part very lenient with non resident property owners and their units, especially if no one is occupying the units currently,” said Villani. “We simply tell them to get that detector in place and send us the notification as soon as possible, and certainly, before anyone inhabits the unit.”
In regards to the complaint, there were no fines levied or violations reported by the office of the Fire Marshal, as the property owner’s Realtor, Prudential Carruthers Associate Broker Joy Snyder made sure that the unit was in compliance with the CO detector code personally.
“It all comes down to customer service,” said Snyder. “That’s what you are supposed to do when you are a Realtor in a resort town. I’ve been going and doing it myself in order to make sure that they know that the city is really bearing down on the CO law. But, seven days to get it done, when some people live hours away, and 80 percent of the properties in this town are owned by people who live out of town, is not enough time.”
Pat Terrill, also a Realtor with Prudential Carruthers, said that in many cases, if an owner receives a letter, he or she simply contacts the local office and that office sub-contracts the work out to get the apparatus installed in the unit within the allotted time. She said that although her company doesn’t charge for the service to non-resident property owners, other companies in the resort do.
“There’s no reason if you are renting a property in this town that you shouldn’t have these CO detectors installed as the law requires,” said Terrill. “After what happened last summer with CO leaks, it’s obvious why the city is really trying to get everyone to pay attention. It’s good customer service to help the property owners get into compliance if they aren’t here, but it’s not the Realtor’s responsibility.”
As property owners and listing agents ready themselves for the upcoming summer season, the issue of CO detector code compliance is being brought back to the forefront, as the city hopes to avoid any sort of tragic event after two major CO leaks last summer at the Americana Hotel and the El Capitan in Ocean City.
Neither of those leaks did any more harm that a short hospital stay for several of the victims, but a 2006 CO leak at the Days Inn Hotel claimed the lives of a Pennsylvania man and his 10-year-old daughter.
The 2007 ordinance that the Mayor and City Council passed was a direct result of the fatal 2006 CO leak, but the ordinance gave a 24-month grace period for properties to come into compliance.
That grace period ended in February of 2009, and after the Fire Marshal’s Office found no CO detectors at both the Americana and El Capitan while investigating the leaks at those downtown businesses, Villani says that his team ramped up its efforts to get the town into compliance in a way that has resembled nothing short of a full court press.
“We’ve been doing all that we can, and getting information out on social networks, TV, newspapers, public service announcements, we’ve even been knocking on doors, and anything else we can think of to get people to comply,” said Villani. “We’ve got letters from over 24,000 properties, so we are almost there, and we hope to have every multi-family dwelling unit in compliance by Memorial Day.”