As of January
1, 2014, all smoke alarms installed must be on the State Fire Marshal’s list of approved devices. In order to be on
the list of approved devices, the device must meet these five requirements:
current law, only owners of multi-family rental units are responsible for testing and maintaining the devices, while owners
of single family units are under no such obligation. However as of January 1,2014 owners of both, Multi-family and single
family rental units who rent of lease their property will be responsible for testing and maintaining the smoke alarms within
all of the units in, or on, their properties.
In the case of apartment buildings with two or
more units, landlords will be responsible for testing and maintaining the devices in every unit, including vacant units.
In order to facilitate the owner’s obligation to test and maintain the devices,
owners or their agents are permitted to enter the unit for the purposes of installing, repairing, testing, and/or maintaining
the devices. However, owners are required to provide tenants with reasonable notice, in writing of their intent to enter
the unit prior to going in.
Reasonable notice is generally considered to be 24 hours in advance of entering,
and entrance may be only during normal business hours, (generally, Monday through Friday 9am to 5pm)
Additionally, owners are required to ensure that smoke alarms are operable at the time a new tenancy is created. However,
during the course of the tenancy, the tenant has the obligation to notify the owner once the tenant becomes aware of a problem
with the smoke alarm and, of course, the owner is then required to correct any reported deficiencies in the smoke alarm.
and Penalties for Failure to Comply
Enforcement of the new law will be done on
two levels. First, the law provides that building permits for alterations or repairs of $1,000.00 or more on residential
properties will not be signed off by the permit issuing agency until the property owner demonstrates that all smoke alarms
installed in the unit are on the State Fire Marshal’s list of approved devices. Second, landlords who fail to comply
with the law will be charged with an infraction, punishable by a maximum fine of two hundred dollars ($200) for each offense.
However,the law as amended, also permits the State Fire Marshal to create exceptions to these requirements, or suspend enforcement
of the requirements altogether for up to six months if the Fire Marshall determines there is a shortage of suitable
alarm systems available to the public. In that situation, the State Fire Marshal will notify the public by posting their
decision on their website at http://osfm.fire.ca.gov/
Coming in 2016
Something to consider
is another change in law regarding smoke alarms, set to go into effect on January 1, 2016. As of that date, owners of residential
rental units will be required to install additional smoke alarms, as needed, to comply with then current building standards.
And, while existing alarms will not need to be replaced unless they are inoperable, the law as drafted will require owners
to verify with the state and local government agencies that placement of the alarms is correct, thereby prohibiting a new
tenant from taking occupancy until it is established that the devices are in compliance with the newest code requirement.
It is interesting to note that this requirement is somewhat unique in that other laws which have mandated retrofit requirements
have never before prohibited an owner from renting their unit until it has been upgraded of verified to be in compliance
with the law or a local code.