Recast Smoke Alarm Requirements

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On August 27, 2013, California Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. signed into law Senate Bill 745 recasting smoke alarm requirements:

Listing Smoke Alarms

Existing law provides that no person may market, distribute, offer for sale, or sell any fire alarm system or fire alarm device in California unless the system or device has been approved and listed by the State Fire Marshal. As amended, Health & Safety Code § 13114(2)(A) provides that, except as otherwise permitted by Subdivision (2)(B), commencing July 1, 2014, in order to be approved and listed by the State Fire Marshal, a smoke alarm that is only operated by a battery will be required to contain a non-replaceable, non-removable battery that is capable of powering the smoke alarm for at least 10 years. This does not apply to smoke alarms that have been ordered by, or are in the inventory of, an owner, managing agent, contractor, wholesaler, or retailer on or before July 1, 2014, until July 1, 2015.

The new law further requires that, commencing January 1, 2015, in order to be approved and listed by the State Fire Marshal, a smoke alarm must display the date of manufacture on the device, provide a place on the device where the date of installation can be written, and incorporate a hush feature. The new law gives the State Fire Marshal authority to create exceptions through its regulatory process, including, but not limited to, fire alarm systems with smoke detectors, fire alarm devices that connect to a panel, or other devices that use a low-power radio frequency wireless communication signal. The State Fire Marshal is required to approve the manufacturer’s instructions for each smoke alarm and ensure that the instructions are consistent with current building standard requirements for the location and placement of smoke alarms.

Smoke Alarms Installed in Dwelling Units Intended for Human Occupancy

Owners of dwelling units intended for human occupancy should consider reviewing the new smoke alarm law to determine whether they are subject to new requirements. “Dwelling units intended for human occupancy” is defined to include “a one- or two-unit dwelling, lodging house, apartment complex, hotel, motel, condominium, stock cooperative, time-share project, or dwelling unit of a multiple-unit dwelling complex or factory-built housing as defined in [Health & Safety Code §] 19971.” Health & Safety Code § 13113.7(b). It does not include “manufactured homes,” as defined in Health & Safety Code § 18007, “mobile homes,” as defined in Health & Safety Code § 18008, or “commercial coaches,” as defined in Health & Safety Code § 18001.8. A “high rise structure,” as defined in Health & Safety Code § 13210(b), and regulated by Chapter 3 (commencing with Health & Safety Code § 13210), and which is used for purposes other than as dwelling units intended for human occupancy, is exempt from the Health & Safety Code § 13113.7 requirements, discussed below.

Building Permits On or After January 1, 2014

Section 13113.7 prohibits, for all “dwelling units intended for human occupancy,” for which a building permit is issued on or after January 1, 2014, for alterations, repairs, or additions exceeding $1,000, the permit issuer signing off on the completion of work if the permittee has not demonstrated that all smoke alarms required for the dwelling unit are devices approved and listed by the Office of the State Fire Marshal pursuant to Health & Safety Code § 13114. Certain exceptions set forth in Section 13113.7 may apply.

Testing Smoke Alarms

Section 13113.7(d) provides that the “owner shall be responsible for testing and maintaining alarms in hotels, motels, lodging houses, apartment complexes, and other multiple dwelling complexes in which units are neither rented nor leased.” It further provides that the owner of a hotel, motel, lodging houses, apartment complex, or other multiple-dwelling complexes in which units are rented or leased, and commencing January 1, 2014, the owner of a single-family dwelling that is rented or leased, shall be responsible for testing and maintaining alarms required by this section as follows:

“(A) An owner or the owner’s agent may enter any dwelling unit, efficiency dwelling unit, guest room, and suite owned by the owner for the purpose of installing, repairing, testing, and maintaining single station smoke detectors required by this section. Except in cases of emergency, the owner or owner’s agent shall give the tenants of each such unit, room, or suite reasonable notice in writing of the intention to enter and shall enter only during normal business hours. Twenty-four hours shall be presumed to be reasonable notice in absence of evidence to the contrary.
(B) At the time that a new tenancy is created, the owner shall ensure that smoke alarms are operable. The tenant shall be responsible for notifying the manager or owner if the tenant becomes aware of an inoperable smoke alarm within his or her unit. The owner or authorized agent shall correct any reported deficiencies in the smoke alarm when he or she has not received notice of the deficiency.”

Additional Smoke Alarms Required

Unless exempt, on or before January 1, 2016, the owner of a “dwelling unit intended for human occupancy” in which one or more units is rented or leased is to install additional smoke alarms, as needed, to ensure that smoke alarms are located in compliance with current building standards. New smoke alarms may be battery operated provided that alarms have been approved by the State Fire Marshal for sale in the State, and existing alarms need not be replaced unless that alarm is inoperable. This requirement does not apply to fire alarm systems with smoke detectors, fire alarms devices that connect to a panel, or other devices that use a low-power radio frequency wireless communication signal.

Additional Source: California State Fire Marshal Information Bulletin 13-006; California Senate Bill 745; Health & Safety Code §§ 13113.7, 13114; Carbon Monoxide Poisoning Prevention Act of 2010 ; Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) on Carbon Monoxide (CO) Devices

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