The Senate Transportation, Commerce and Labor Committee took testimony February 10 regarding SB205 which would require a separate, exterior means of egress for dwelling areas above the second story of certain residential rental properties and provide a qualified immunity to landlords who in good faith comply with the requirement.

Sen. Beagle read the written testimony of Ann and Rod Garner, whose daughter, Ellen, died as a result of injuries she sustained in a house fire near the University of Cincinnati campus.

He said Ellen was trapped in a third-floor bedroom when a fire was started by a space heater.

The testimony indicated that having an external egress option could have helped Ellen escape the home, and argued that a failure to act would mean accepting the deaths of more college students.

The testimony indicated that quality egress ladder costs about $265, and besides offering an escape route, would also minimize the risk that insurers and landlords face from the issue.

The hearing start was delayed briefly at the outset when Senate staff and a canine were brought to the Senate Finance Hearing Room after an object thought to be a suspicious package was found in the room. The room was temporarily cleared and it was determined the box contained an egress ladder that Sen. Beagle displayed during the testimony.

Spencer Brannon of the Ohio Student Government Association also backed the bill. He said the measure would have a significant positive impact on college students in that it would make many of them safer in their off-campus residences.

The rising cost of university housing often forces students to seek lodging elsewhere, and students often end up renting older off-campus homes that have been renovated to make attics and other areas available for living, he said. It is in those areas of homes where having external egress options would be beneficial.

Mr. Brannon added that the association’s members regularly disagree on legislative issues, but said members were unanimous on this bill.

Written proponent testimony was provided by Rod Garner, Anne Kohls, Andrea Heinrich, Laure Quinlivan, University of Cincinnati President Santa Ono, James Oaks of the Miami University Student Senate, Andrew Naab and Andrew Griggs of the University of Cincinnati student body and Dean Dennis of the Northeast Ohio Fire Prevention Association.