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Smoke detectors are an essential part of protecting your property and renters. However, these devices are often not included in the lease and there is confusion over who is responsible for their installation and maintenance.

The hope is that your smoke alarm will protect you, your home, and the property of your renters from fire. This small device can save you from serious injury and devastating losses.

The main question on everyone’s mind is who is really responsible for testing, maintaining and replacing expired smoke detectors in apartments?

Another topic examined in this article is about landlords rights in situations of disagreement concerning smoke detector usage in an apartment. We answer all these questions in the following article.

What Are Your Responsibilities As a Landlord?

Remember that laws and responsibility for smoke detectors vary from one state to the next. If you are looking for information about the state’s requirements regarding smoke alarms and carbon monoxide alarms your city’s building code is a great place to start.

Legislation changes almost every year by state, so make sure to give your city a call to know exactly what is required. Make sure you have the most current information to protect yourself and your tenants in case of a fire.

Who installs the smoke detector?

In most states (but not all), the landlord is responsible to install the first smoke detector and ensure that it functions properly. Each state has its own laws regarding the placement and type. California law requires wired and battery-powered smoke alarms outside every bedroom. Standard issue alarms come with a 10-year battery life and are tamper-resistant.

Who’s responsible for testing the batteries and changing them?

The responsibility is shared by Renters. The landlord must give 24 hours notice before entering a rental property, except in an emergency. If the tenant is responsible for checking the alarms regularly, he/she should.

Is the smoke detector required to be connected at all times? 

The most important thing is that if your smoke detector is not connected, you could face criminal charges for causing a fire. It is legal to disengage a smoke alarm if there are any burning foods or smoke in the room. However, the detector should always be connected.

Who is responsible for replacing the smoke alarm when it fails?

This will differ from one state to another. In some states, the landlord must fix the smoke alarm in the event it fails. Maryland’s example is that landlords must replace smoke detectors within five days of being notified of damage. In other states, the landlord is allowed to replace the defective alarm within 15 days.

What to do if a Tenant Dismantles The Smoke Detector?

What should you do if your tenant continues to disconnect the smoke detectors from their apartment? If the problem persists and you have communicated with the tenant in writing about it, you might be able start the eviction process.

Technically, tenants who are caught with a fire alarm removed have a time limit (depending on what state) to return the alarm. If the tenant is on a month-to-month lease, landlords may be able to immediately evict them if necessary.

If the tenant has not replaced the fire alarm on their wall, it is worth asking the local fire department for an inspection. This can give the tenant a better understanding of the importance and legal consequences that could result from not following state laws.

Best Smart Thermostats for Rental Properties

While we understand that cost is always a concern as a property manager or landlord, a smart smoke detector can solve many of the issues mentioned earlier in this article.

One great feature of smart smoke detectors is that they’re connected to your smart phone through their app. The apps then allows you to create multiple useful automations. For example, if a smoke detector is turned off by tenants or if the alarm goes off you could have a text message directly sent to an on-premise janitor.

We have an article specifically about the top smart smoke detectors currently for sale. In this article we review the only 4 smoke detectors that can currently connect to the phone. Below is the Nest Protect, the most advanced of such devices by far.


If you are a landlord or property owner, one of the most important safety investments you can make is getting quality smoke detectors for your units. With so many products on the market, it’s hard to know which ones will work best in your units and provide reliable protection from fire hazards.

We hope we’ve clarified your rights in situations where there is conflict with tenants around smoke detectors. In addition, we are convinced that the capabilities of smart smoke detectors will have a big difference in automating property management and reducing costs. Purchasing a smart smoke detector is a great way to start.

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