Fire Safety Warning! It’s Never the Dead People’s Fault

September 22nd, 2010 · 7 Comments · Personal House, Property Management, Rental Property, Tenant Resources

Did You Check Your Smoke Alarms?

No one ever blames the dead people. When there’s a fire, and people die, they always look for someone to blame. Don’t let this be you! As a landlord it is your responsibility to make sure the smoke alarms are all working. Don’t kid yourself, this can and does happen to landlords. You have to be the one who is pro-active and on the ball because, if the worst should happen, not only will you have your picture in the paper as the jerk slumlord who neglected his property and caused the death of a tenant or family, you will also be subject to fines and possibly some jail too! So read this then get to work updating and changing what needs to be done.

Change all smoke alarms after 10 years

After 10 years a smoke alarm is tired and lazy. Go buy a huge box of young (raring to go) smoke alarms and go around to all your properties and change them all at once if your properties are over 10 years old.

Smoke Alarms Can Be Moved

You’re supposed to have a smoke alarm outside each sleeping area and on every floor of the house. If you go to a house or apartment and the battery is out or a hard wired alarm is disabled, it’s in the wrong spot. I had just such an alarm in my house, it was hard wired and every tenant would disable it. It turned out that every single time they took a shower, the alarm would go off! Can I really blame them? So when you find a situation like this in your house, don’t scold your tenant, sure they’re stupid, but it’s a lot easier (and more effective) to move the smoke alarm than to change people. You as a landlord have to be smarter than your tenant, here’s a guide to moving the smoke alarm to stop nuisance alarms.

Change the Battery

Every six months change the battery. A wise landlord would try to buy smoke alarms that use the same battery, so that you always have some on hand and so you don’t have to try to remember what house has which smoke alarm etc. Changing the battery shouldn’t be an IQ test; it should be simple and easy.


While you are there inspect the property. Write down what you did and what the condition of the property is in. Believe me if more landlords “changed the smoke alarm” there would be a lot less marijuana grow ops too! Here’s a link to a Chatham-Kent website where you can download a smoke alarm checklist to fill out once you check the smoke alarms. It also lists landlord responsibilities and tenant responsibilities

After a Fire… It has been found that 50% of smoke alarms don’t work!

Because of all the reasons above. Disabled or battery dead or too old.

Go Crazy and Change The Smoke Alarm in Your Own House

Don’t forget to check and change your own smoke alarms and fire safety plans.

For Tenants

You have a lazy landlord, who doesn’t take of his place and the smoke alarm has no battery or is over 10 years old or is in the wrong spot or whatever. Not every landlord is wonderful enough to read my blog!

This is important!

Don’t burn to death in your sleep because your landlord’s an ass. The store will sell you a smoke alarm. They will also sell you batteries. Those things will cost under 10$ and might save your hide. The bottom line is that once you or your family is dead or burned, it won’t be much of a comfort that it was your landlord’s job. So be smart and do it yourself if your landlord hasn’t or won’t do it. Do it today!

Consequences for Landlords

If you don’t maintain the smoke alarms in your rental properties…there is a whole world of hurt waiting for you. Fines and even jail time are available. Great you saved a whole $10 per suite, there’s a fire in one of your houses/apartments and  now you get to be on the front page of the newspaper, get a $50,000 fine and possible some jail time. You’re a real genius!

Get to Work!

Now you know! First sign up for my RSS < click here or email subscription (top right), next take yourself down to Home Depot and get some smoke alarms or batteries and get those things changed. Don’t forget to move the ones that need moving!

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7 Comments so far ↓

  • Jordan

    Smoke detectors use a tiny amount of radioactive material to generate ions in the air that interact with smoke particles. Once that radioactive material has decayed, the smoke detector is useless. That is why the units themselves (not just the batteries) have a finite shelf life.

  • Rachelle

    I did not even know that smoke detectors can “go bad” after 10 years myself 🙂

    Almost every single property I manage now is over 10 years old, and most of the one I managed in the past as well and I never even thought of it! I have work of my own to do!

  • CanuckLandlord

    I actually had the Fire Marshall and Fire Inspector look at one of my buildings. They were friendly and they scolded one of the tenants for taking the battery out of her smoke detector because it went off every time she cooked (maybe she was a bad cook).

    The Fire Marshall told me that as long as the battery and smoke detector are working when the tenant moves in, then the landlord has done their job. They also said that they will go fine tenants who repeatedly remove batteries from smoke detectors or discharge fire extinguishers.

    I would agree that if a tenant has been there for a few years, then it would be a good gesture for the landlord to change them. It’s just not something that crosses your mind, even though they’re important.

  • Rachelle

    It went off because it was in the wrong spot. No one’s going to put up with a smoke detector that goes off every single time you cook.

    Here in Ontario, you’re supposed to check your smoke detectors every six months and document it.

    But even in your scenario…lets say there is a fire, and god forbid someone dies. The Fire Department will try to go after you, everyone will be sad and angry and want to blame someone. Who better than the greedy landlord too cheap to properly maintain his smoke detectors. I wasn’t kidding when I said that no one ever blames the stupid and dead people.

  • Potato

    There are two common types of smoke detectors: ionization and photoelectric. Ideally every place would have both; the photoelectric type should be the one nearest the kitchen/bathroom since they’re less sensitive to false positives from steam.

  • Potato

    Oh, and I should say that as a tenant I did end up having to get 2 smoke detectors for my last place – there wasn’t a photoelectric one, there wasn’t one guarding the stairwell, and then I had to move the one that was there, because it was mounted in a closet!

    Every time I think about that, I shake my head at my poor batty old landlord…