Window rule receives positive feedback

By Travis Gulbrandson

Vermillion Building Official Farrel Christensen said the city has received several positive comments from local contractors about the ordinances concerning egress windows in rental properties.

Christensen spoke about the issue during the Vermillion City Council’s regular meeting Monday night.

“(The contractors) supported the idea of the change, and felt it took the burden away from them and placed it on us,” Christensen said. “We’re happy to do that.”

At the council’s last meeting, members voted to remove the building permit exemption for replacement windows in existing openings, and added regulations and requirements for replacement windows.

The city hopes this will prevent rental property owners from installing egress windows that are not up to current standards.

An ordinance adopted in August 2011 required egress windows of at least five square feet to be installed in the bedrooms of all rental properties. The purpose of the windows is to give tenants a means of escape during a fire.

The city council also voted to give rental property owners an extension to get the proper egress windows installed at their Oct. 7 meeting.

It was during that meeting when at least five local landlords spoke against the egress window regulations, with some referring to them as a “double standard.”

No landlords spoke for or against the ordinance at Monday night’s meeting.

According to the memo given to city council members two weeks ago, all new construction since the mid-1960s has required a five square-foot or 5.7 square-foot egress.

“The rental registry process since the 1980s has required all properties coming onto the rental registry to have at least a five square-foot egress window in each bedroom,” the memo said. “The national egress window standard was increased from five square feet to 5.7 square feet in 1976.”

The city council also passed a resolution establishing a $25 fee for permits to replace windows in existing openings this week.

Even though the pertinent ordinance will not go into effect until Jan. 1, Christensen said the permit fee needed to be established.

“Most (communities) in the state do have a window ordinance, and they also charge a fee for it. The most prominent way to do it was a flat-rate fee where you pay one set rate for one or however many windows that you chose to replace,” he said.

Both items were passed unanimously by the council.

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