Landlord faces criminal charges for smoke, CO detector violations

Landlord faces criminal charges for smoke, CO detector violations

URBANA — The landlord for several properties in southeast Urbana is scheduled to appear in court next month to answer to criminal charges alleging he did not have smoke and carbon monoxide detectors in several of his apartments.

Urbana police on Thursday served Paul Zerrouki, 51, of Mahomet, with a notice to appear in court on preliminary charges of criminal housing management and violations of the smoke detector and carbon monoxide detector acts, all Class A misdemeanors.

Urbana police Lt. Bob Fitzgerald said the fire department and city inspectors were doing systematic safety inspections earlier this month in southeast Urbana, that included several of the apartment buildings on Silver, Philo and Fletcher streets that Zerrouki manages.

"We received information from the inspectors that some things were being done at his properties. Carbon monoxide detectors and fire extinguishers were being switched. We did an investigation, and as a result, we charged him," Fitzgerald said.

Assistant State's Attorney Steve Ziegler said he only received the reports from Urbana on Friday and will review them before deciding which charges to file in advance of the Feb. 14 court date.

Urbana Fire Chief Mike Dilley said the alleged deficiencies at Zerrouki's properties involved violations of fire and city code.

"There were things like doors not working properly, nonworking detectors, both smoke and carbon monoxide, both of which are state law, particularly in the vacant apartments," he said.

"State law says he's required to have the detectors in place at the time the unit is occupied, and after that, it's the tenant's responsibility to maintain them. Where the problem occurs is when people have one in an existing apartment, and they remove it. That's what the police department charged him with. The law doesn't differentiate between vacant and nonvacant apartments when it comes to removing smoke or carbon monoxide detectors," he said.

Calls to Zerrouki's office at BZ Management, 1305 Silver St., U, and another number for him in the phone book were not answered.

Dilley said the fire department's focus during the systematic inspections is citizen safety.

"No. 1 is that people are not injured or die in a fire. That's our whole focus. Early warning and exiting the building are what we look for," the chief said.

The maximum punishment for conviction of a Class A misdemeanor is up to 364 days in the county jail.

Almost two years ago, city officials leaned on Zerrouki to work on crime issues originating at those properties, and security was beefed up.

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