TRENTON – Legislation sponsored by Senator Ronald L. Rice, Chairman of the Senate Community and Urban Affairs Committee, to strengthen current window guard laws and provide tenants and their children with increased protection and notification, was approved by the Senator’s Committee today.
Senator Rice stated that the bill will be named the “Robert E. Dwight, Jr, Raquan Ellis and Zahir Atkins memorial Child-Protection Window Guard Law” in honor of three New Jersey children who tragically died from falling out windows.
“Most recently, five-year old Zahir Atkins fell to his death from an apartment that had window guards,” said Senator Rice. “This horrific situation should have never happened. We must strengthen the previous window guard legislation so that no other family has to experience the horrible tragedy of losing a young child.”
According to the National SAFE KIDS Campaign, “Each year, approximately 18 children ages 10 and under die from window fall-related injuries.? An estimated 4,700 children ages 14 and under are treated in hospital emergency departments annually for injuries sustained from falling out of windows.”
“We must realize how critically important it is to have window guards installed properly, and inspected regularly,” said Senator Rice, D-Essex. “Even one preventable fall from a window is too many. Tenants and landlords must do everything possible to prevent any more tragedies.”
“The current law requires landlords to install window guards upon the written request of a tenant,” said Senator Rice.
The bill, S-458, would amend the 1995 “Window Guard Law” and require greater protection for tenants with children.
-Landlords would have to install metal stops in the tracks of the window to prevent it from being raised more that four inches above the window guard.
-Owners, upon written request, would have to install window guards if a child spends a substantial period of time in the residence.
-Owners would have to inspect the window guards twice a year.
-Owners would have to provide an orientation about window guard annually to tenants.
-A minimum penalty of $100 would be imposed for each window guard violation. Also owners with continuous violations would be guilty of a fourth degree crime with a maximum $10,000 fine and/or up to 18 months in prison.
-Every six months, owners would have to receive written verification that tenants are aware of their window guard rights.
-A fee of no more than a $20 per window guard would be permitted to be passed onto the tenant.
-Window guards would only be removed if the unit is unoccupied, or with written consent by the tenant if no children under the age of 10 live or are present for a substantial period of time.
Senator Rice stated that in October of 2005, the Department of Community Affairs (DCA) adopted emergency regulations which updated window guard rules by requiring annual inspections and requiring owners to install new more secure window guards this spring.
“The new guards will protect the lower half of the window and will make dismantling the guards more difficult,” said Senator Rice. “Just because window guards are installed doesn’t mean that they are being used properly. Inspections by the DCA revealed that window guards were often tampered with to provide more ventilation — which defeats the purpose of having window guards.”
The bill now heads to the full Senate for consideration.