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Rice/James Names Windows Guard Bill For Young Victims

TRENTON – Legislation sponsored by Senators Ronald L. Rice and Sharpe James, to strengthen current window guard laws and provide tenants and their children with increased protection and notification, was unanimously approved by the full Senate today.

Senator Rice said, “This to 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.”

“Five-year old Zahir Atkins became the most recent victim in new Jersey when he fell from an apartment that had window guards last summer,” said Senator Rice. “These incidents should never happen. Many parents are given a false sense of security because they have window guards installed, but we need to make sure that the guards are working properly and inspected regularly.”

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.

The current law requires landlords to install window guards upon the written request of a tenant, noted Senator Rice.

The new measure, S-458, would amend the 1995 “Window Guard Law” and require that those building that have window guards offer 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 provide an orientation about window guards annually to tenants.

-Owners would have to inspect the window guards twice a year.

-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.

“This bill is long overdue,” said Senator James, D-Essex and Union. I understand that even the best parents can’t spend every waking minute with their children, but it is our responsibility as adults to help ensure the safety and well-being of our young people. By requiring landlords to install these window guards, we would be working to prevent senseless deaths like that of young Zahir Atkins. The safety and protection of our children must be our top priority.”

The bill now heads to the Assembly for consideration.