P.D. from New London County, Connecticut writes:
Dear Mister Condo,
We have received a letter from our local fire marshal requesting a date for him to visit our complex. He wishes to inspect our units to ascertain that the smoke detectors are working and to look for potential problems such as daisy-chained extension cords and overloaded electrical outlets. His letter refers specifically to sections 29-292 and 29-293 of the CT Fire Safety Codes which codes discuss only smoke and similar detectors, certificates of occupancy and fire zones. (To our knowledge there have been no complaints that would raise the fire department’s interest. Also, this will be the first such inspection in at least the past ten years.)
I raised the question of the marshal’s right to enter a privately-owned condo unit without a warrant. A right to do so is not mentioned in the referenced statutes (and I would question it even if it were). Another board member sites CT building codes (not fire codes) that seem to grant right of entry to our building style – four-plex, two units up, two down, per building. We have 24 such units in six buildings. We don’t know whether to demand warrants or to stand aside. I know you are not a lawyer but I would welcome your thoughts.
Mister Condo replies:
P.D., I am sorry I couldn’t get to your question before now. This is all likely a distant memory for your association at this point. You are correct that I am not an attorney nor do I offer any legal advice here. Warrants, etc. are the purview of the legal system, law enforcement, and attorneys. From a practical standpoint, I would think maintaining a positive relationship with the local fire marshal behooves the association and its members. Heaven forbid the marshal was refused entry to the association and a fire happened shortly thereafter. I would think the fire marshal’s visit only benefits the association as resident safety should always be a top priority. If he noticed violations to the state’s fire codes, surely the association would want to know and act to correct those violations. Maybe I am missing something but I just don’t see the downside of such a visit. It could end up costing the association money to be fire code compliant but, at the end of the day, the association should want to be fire code compliant. If not for the safety of its residents, then, at least, to protect itself from liability in the event a fire broke out and an investigation lead to charges against the association for not maintaining compliance. All the best!