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City Pressures Apartment Owners on Fire Safety

Building owners must now inform potential tenants about the status of a building's life safety plan before a lease is signed

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City ramps up pressure on building owners to comply with the city's 2004 life safety ordinance.

Potential tenants of many buildings must now be told about the status of the building's life safety plan under an ordinance passed Wednesday by Chicago's City Council.

The change comes a little more than a month after a woman was killed by a fire in her Lake Shore Drive high-rise.

"If I had my druthers, I’d mandate sprinklers in every building. But short of that, this had to be addressed.” said Ald. Ed Burke (14th), who sponsored the legislation.

Life Safety Evaluations are required in buildings over eight stories that do not have a fire sprinkler system. Sprinklers are required in all high-rise buildings built since 1975.

Six hundred residential buildings are required to submit a Life Safety Evaluation report. So far, 515 have responded to a city letter asking them to update their compliance. More than 100 have indicated they consider their LSE modifications finished. Another 180 reported not having started work on their LSE modifications.

The LSE information was made available to the public on the city's website earlier this month.

The City Council in December gave building owners until 2015 to complete fire upgrades that had been mandated for 2012. Wednesday's step is aimed to bring more of them into compliance and to better inform prospective tenants.

"We want to make sure building owners are ready for 2015," said Michael Merchant, the city’s Buildings Commissioner.

Chicagoan Phyllis Jankowiak used to live at 3130 N. Lake Shore Drive, the same building where Stantel McCoy died in a Jan. 8 fire. She said she never would have moved in had she known the building wasn't in compliance.

"I just assumed everything was alright," she said.

The Illinois Apartment building Owners and Managers association called Wednesday's changes a step in the right direction.

Related Topics life safety, high-rise, fire
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