Changes to Smoke Alarm Laws


With literally dozens of laws passed each year relating to real estate, one might wonder if we really need any more legislation, restraints, requirements, and ways to feed some sector of the economy? The new requirements of California SB1394 and SB745 and changes to Florida’s Building Code in particular place another load of responsibility and liability onto the shoulders of the owner (or the owner’s agent) of rented or leased property by way of new smoke alarm legislation.

Thinking in terms of saving lives, however, the new requirements for smoke alarms do make sense. The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) states that nearly two-thirds of home fire deaths result from fires in homes with no working smoke alarms. Smoke alarm manufacturers assert that the new style of smoke alarm may save consumers over $40 in replacement batteries over the life of each alarm in their homes. California and Florida are not alone in demonstrating their concern for Americans. Five other states and an additional 6 major cities have enacted similar legislation in recent years.


What You Can do to Ensure Smoke Alarm Safety

First, consider a few facts about smoke alarms.  Whether battery operated or hardwired, the smoke alarm device typically lasts only 10 years.  If you have units in your home or rental properties that are older than 10 years, chances are they are inoperable.   “But the test button emits an annoying noise when I push it,” one may argue.  The test button is only testing that the battery has more life.  It does not test operability of the device itself.  To test the device, you must have smoke – a can of smoke is the safe smoke to use.  Mr. Rekey provides smoke alarm testing and replacements in the case of an inoperable device (of which you can schedule here). Canned smoke can also be found online or at your favorite home improvement store for only a few dollars, and it will last for years.

For safety’s sake and to reduce your liability in the case of rental management, make sure your hardwired units have a battery backup. In the case of a power outage, the hardwired smoke alarm is not going to detect smoke if there is no power and no battery backup. While you are bringing your property up to code, consider spending a few dollars more to ensure your hardwired units are protecting you as well as protecting your tenant.

Smoke Alarm Maintenance Tips

  • Replace battery operated and hardwired units every 10 years.  Smoke alarms don’t last forever.
  • Inspect, test and clean smoke alarms at least once every year.  Test not only the battery, but also with canned smoke to insure the device is operable. Schedule service with Mr. Rekey today!
  • Never paint over a smoke alarm.
  • In addition to knowing your local building code, read the manufacturer’s instructions for placement recommendations.
  • To reduce your liability as a Property Manager, consider hiring a contractor for installation and maintenance issues relating to smoke alarms and carbon monoxide alarms.

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