Real Estate Law Updates: Smoke Alarm Enforcement Delay

Real estate law update from J. Scott Souders, P.C., Attorney at Law:

For your review are brief summaries of new cases:

gavel_3001.    Smoke Alarm Law Enforcement Has Been Delayed.

As previously reported by me, Senate Bill 1394 requires smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors in residential rental units that must be on a list of approved devises from the State Fire Marshal. Those approved devises must:

1.    Display the date of manufacture.
2.    Provide a place on the alarm where the date of installation can be written.
3.    Incorporate a hush feature.
4.    Incorporate an end of life feature that provides notice when the alarm needs to be replaced.
5.    Contain a non-replaceable, non-removable battery that can power the smoke alarm i for a minimum of 10 years (This only applies if the alarm is battery operated).

The prior law, before it was amended, required as of January 1, 2014: those above referenced alarms and detectors to be in place. Owners of multi-family units and single family rentals are responsible for testing and maintaining the smoke alarms and detectors within all units.

The Legislature amended Senate bill 1394 and extended the compliance date to January 1, 2016.

For those who own motels or hotels, compliance is required on January 1, 2016 as well.

However, for any work on a residential rental unit that requires a building permit for alteration, repairs, or additions exceeding $1,000.00, the January 1, 2014, law is in effect and the permit issuer is not allowed to sign off on completion of the work until the owner demonstrates that all smoke alarms required for the dwelling are approved and comply with the new law. Finally, the law requires that the owner of any rental unit install compliant smoke alarms and detectors in every room used by occupants for sleeping.

Comment: Some landlords who own rental units in less desirable areas are going to have to scratch their head and figure out where they need to put smoke alarms to comply with this law. Which rooms are occupied for sleeping is anybody’s guess. You need to have a very specific rental agreement that prevents the tenant from sleeping in certain rooms and/or cramming additional people into the unit. Like the servicing of fire extinguishers an additional growth industry, I predict, will be inspecting and maintaining these smoke alarms and detectors. The law requires the landlord to maintain and inspect the alarms. Just another way for the Legislature to increase the landlord’s cost of doing business.

Finally, for those savvy agents this new law and its amendment should give you a very good reason to contact owners of rental units and apartment buildings to inform them of the law and its consequences. Of course, while you are informing the owners of the important laws that affect their business you have the perfect opportunity to inquire as to their thoughts about selling their units and/or acquiring additional units. A great marketing tool, in my opinion.

Scott Souders is a real estate attorney who has practiced real estate law in excess of 37 years in Southern California.

Disclaimer: The Real Estate Law Update cites cases or statutes which are summarized and should not be relied upon without fully reading the cases or statute in the advance sheets and shepardizing the same and consulting with your own attorney