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New smoke alarm requirements for residential properties

The State Fire Marshal requires the installation of approved smoke alarms in all residential properties in California. All approved smoke alarms/detectors are listed by the State Fire Marshal to comply with California Health & Safety Code 13113.7.

Back in 2014, all battery-operated smoke alarms were required by the State Fire Marshal to have a non-replaceable battery with a lifespan of at least ten years. In 2015, all smoke alarms, whether battery-operated or hardwired, were required to:

  • Indicate date of manufacture
  • Include a place where date of installation can be provided
  • Have a hush/silent feature

Functional smoke alarms (battery-operated or hardwired) which were previously listed and approved prior to installation are not required to be replaced immediately, although certain local ordinances may require sooner replacement. Once an installed smoke alarm is no longer functional, it should be replaced with another unit that complies with all requirements. Smoke alarms are not required in properties that already have a preexisting State Fire Marshal-approved fire alarm system with smoke detectors.

Failure to comply with smoke alarm rules results in a maximum fine of $200 for each violation.

Smoke alarm requirements in rental properties

Owners or property managers are required to install, test, and maintain smoke alarms in single-family or multi-unit residential properties. They are required to ensure all smoke alarms are in working condition in the event of a new tenancy. To ensure the safety of residents, rental and lease agreement forms include a provision which requires landlords to follow all safety regulations and ordinances, including the smoke alarm law.

Tenants have the responsibility to notify owners or property managers in case a smoke alarm within the property is defective or inoperable. Owners will not be liable for violation of smoke alarm laws in case they are not aware of any malfunction in a smoke alarm after tenants are given possession over a unit.

Once an owner is notified by the tenant of a defective smoke alarm, he or she is required to correct the defect. Tenants will be issued a 24-hour written notice before an owner or their agent performs repairs on the property, which are only allowed during business hours.

Owners and property managers are also required to install additional smoke alarms in specific locations determined by current local building standards. In the state of California, every floor, sleeping room, and areas immediately outside of bedrooms (i.e. hallways) are required to have a smoke alarm. Correct placement of smoke alarms in a property will depend on local ordinances.

Inspections

The frequency of smoke alarm inspections is not mandated by smoke detector laws. However, landlords/property managers have the duty to inspect the property upon entry for any purpose. Every inspection does not need to be thorough, but landlords should be aware that they may be held liable for any dangerous condition that can be detected by any reasonable person.

If any defect in a smoke alarm is visually observable during a landlord’s inspection of the unit, the landlord is required to perform repairs or replace the device.