Smoke Detectors

Smoke Detectors

Smoke Detectors

Smoke detectors in a rental property are not only a necessity they are required! If you own a rental property in California, as a landlord you have certain responsibilities under the law. This includes ensuring your rental units have working smoke detectors throughout the property to alert tenants in case of a fire. Moreover, the smoke alarms you have in each rental unit must have a 10-year lifespan! And, while smoke detectors are mandatory in all rental properties so are carbon monoxide detectors. As of January 1, 2016, owners of rental units must install smoke alarms in each bedroom or other sleeping area. What’s more, is your smoke alarms must meet all of the fire marshal’s requirements. The reality is, law or no law landlords are responsible for the fire safety of their tenants!

Are Your Rental Properties Are Compliant?

Are You Compliant with the Law?

According to CAL FIRE (n.d.) on Battery Replacement,

“Smoke alarms with non-replaceable (long-life) batteries are designed to remain effective for up to 10 years. If the alarm chirps, warning that the battery is low, replace the entire smoke alarm right away. For smoke alarms with any other type of battery, replace batteries at least once a year. If the alarm chirps, replace only the battery” (para. 3).

Smoke detectors and fire alarms are some of the most important items in a rental unit. Furthermore, these early warning devices may help alert your tenants to fire and dangerous smoke while there is still time to evacuate. Additionally, home inspections are key to ensuring you are complying with the rules and regulations.

Smoke detectors provide an early warning of a fire…

California Law on Smoke Detectors

  • Habitability Laws: mandated by the same habitability laws that obligate landlords to create a safe and livable property for tenants
  • Smoke Detector Laws: every type of rental property must have a smoke detector, whether it is a multiple-unit building or rental home
  • Smoke Detector Requirements: ALL old smoke detectors that are solely powered by batteries must be replaced
    • A sealed battery that is rated to last 10 years
    • Hardwired smoke detectors are required for all new construction 
      • And, a battery-backup system
  • Landlords Responsibility: landlords cannot make the tenant responsible for testing or maintaining the smoke alarms
    • It is the landlords responsibility
  • Tenant Responsibility: tenants must notify the landlord immediately
    • Ff the smoke detectors malfunction so they can be repaired or replaced

Testing is Necessary…

Types of Smoke Detectors: 

  1. Battery-powered: this type can be susceptible to defective or worn-out batteries
    • Monthly testing is critical
    • Never put old batteries into smoke detectors and fire alarms
  2. Hardwired: powered by a home’s electrical system, this type of smoke detector also has back-up battery
    • This ensures it remains operational in a power outage
    • Hardwired smoke detectors still require monthly testing to help ensure that both batteries and parts are functioning properly
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Test and Maintain

Test smoke alarms frequently. A suggested frequency is every month. Vacuum smoke alarms at least once a year. Vacuum rental units at least once a year to remove dust and cobwebs. Dust and cobwebs can impair sensitivity. Never paint over a smoke alarms. Replace smoke alarms every 10 years. California law requires that the new alarm you buy will have a ten-year, sealed battery. For more information download The City of San Diego’s smoke alarm tip sheet here.

Ionization & Photoelectric Alarms What you Should Know

There are two kinds of alarms. Ionization smoke alarms are quicker to warn about flaming fires. Photoelectric alarms are quicker to warn about smoldering fires. Therefore, it is best to use both types of alarms in the home.

Fair Housing Act

Make sure to check local and state smoke detector laws. For example, housing discrimination. Consequently, installing a visual smoke detection alarm for deaf or hard of hearing tenants is just good business.

Smoke Detectors

When In Doubt

Hire a property management company to do the work for you. We perform semi-annual inspections of our rental properties and smoke detectors are always checked for proper performance. Call us today! That is, if you want to save you time, money, and the stress that comes along with managing your own rentals.


CAL FIRE. (n.d.). CAL FIRE – Smoke Alarms. Retrieved from

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And Hire A Property Manager!