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    Livable City warns faulty heating systems can have consequences

    (10/26/2006) The Livable City Initiative is shutting a down a three-family rental property at 365 Howard Avenue today after carbon monoxide poisoning sent a disabled tenant to the hospital.

    The shutdown closes a chapter on a property that has been problematic for Livable City, with turnover of landlords, a history of defective heating and a lack of accountability. Livable City Director Andrew Rizzo, Jr. said today’s incident underscores why Livable City lobbied hard to create a landlord inspection ordinance.

    “Because we go in and inspect, we have the chance to rectify problems such as a dangerous furnace,” Rizzo noted. “Landlords who are making money renting out their units have a responsibility to maintain safe conditions. In this case, the conditions were beyond unsafe.”

    365 Howard Ave. was scheduled for an inspection under the City’s new landlord inspection ordinance later this year.

    The property is the second in two months where residents suffered CO2 issues because of improper heating conditions. Tenants who have concerns about their living conditions can call LCI at 946-8090. After 5 p.m., residents with emergency housing issues may call 946-6237. In addition, the fire department offers tips on how to prevent problems related to heating in the cold winter months. Click on http://www.cityofnewhaven.com/fire/prevention.asp.

    Today’s situation provides a clear example of why it is important for New Haven residents to install carbon monoxide detectors in their homes. Such detectors are available at most hardware stores.

    At 365 Howard this morning, the Fire Department found a clogged chimney, a high reading of carbon monoxide in the basement and first, second and third floors of the building. The police department also found narcotics in one of the units. The walls are coated with black soot that housing inspectors believe is a buildup over time of carbon monoxide.

    Three families at the Howard Avenue apartment building are being relocated into temporary housing.

    Under a landlord inspection ordinance passed by the Board of Aldermen in August 2005, rental properties that are non-owner occupied and that serve a minimum of two families will be inspected once every two years. Those that pass will be licensed by the Livable City Initiative. Licensing fees depend on the number of units, but range from $75 to a max of $375 for a two-year license. The license applies to the entire building.

    Those that do not pass will have a grace period to make improvements and bring the units up to minimum level of compliance. Those who do not get a license risk fines. The City started with the larger, multi-property owners and will eventually inspect all 20,000 rental units over a two-year period.

    Today’s incident follows another on September 27, when nine people were hospitalized for carbon monoxide poisoning after a member of the household attempted to renovate their heating system without a permit. A Fair Haven Heights resident used a cut-saw in his basement to convert his home’s heating system from oil to gas. Cut-saws release significant amounts of poisonous carbon monoxide gas, and are therefore designed solely for outdoor use. Since the man was conducting the work without obtaining the proper permit or contacting the Livable City Initiative, he was unaware of this fact. After working for a little bit in the confined space, the rising CO levels made the man dizzy, and he left his basement. The other members of his household stayed in the house, unwittingly inhaling an excess of carbon monoxide and ultimately requiring brief hospitalization.

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