Smoke Alarms and CO Alarms in CALIFORNIA… What, Where and When?

The last few days this topic keeps coming up and there are so many questions about the “smoke detector/Co” law and I was in need of the answer my self.  I can’t figure out why but California, that I love so much, keeps changing the law on Smoke Detectors and Carbon-monoxide Alarms.  IT’S SO ANNOYING and not to mention hard to keep up with.  Here is what I found:



I found this: Clearing up smoke alarm laws for residential propertieson this:

Updated 6/25/14

A part of all residential properties

Smoke alarms approved by the State Fire Marshal are required to be placed in all residential properties in California. The State Fire Marshal lists all approved smoke alarms. [Calif. Health & Safety Code §13113.7]

Beginning July 1, 2014, the State Fire Marshal will require all battery-operated smoke alarms to contain a non-replaceable battery that lasts at least ten years. [Health & S C §13114(b)]

Beginning January 1, 2015, the State Fire Marshal will require all smoke alarms(battery-powered, or powered by electricity) to:

  • display the date of manufacture;
  • provide a place where the date of installation can be written; and
  • incorporate a hush feature.

Does this mean all the existing smoke alarms need to be replaced to meet these new alarm requirements? No. Operable hardwired and battery-operated smoke alarms which were approved and listed when they were installed don’t need to be replaced immediately. [Health & S C §§13113.7(a)(4); 13113.7(d)(3)]

Editor’s note — Local ordinance may require replacement sooner. [Health & S C §13113.7(a)(4)]

When an existing smoke alarm no longer works, the replacement smoke alarm is to meet all new requirements. For example, a battery-powered smoke alarm installed on July 2, 2014 is required to have the non-replaceable ten-year battery, but is not required to display the date of manufacture.

Editor’s note — Battery-powered smoke alarms do not need to adhere to new battery requirements if they are ordered or inventoried on or before July 1, 2014. However, this exception only applies until July 1, 2015. [Health & S C §13114(b)(2(B)]

Smoke alarms are not required if a State Fire Marshal-approved fire alarm system with smoke detectors is installed on the property. An existing fire sprinkler system no longer exempts a residential property owner from smoke alarm installation requirements. [Health & S C §13113.7(a)(5)]

Violations of smoke alarm rules incur a maximum fine of $200 for each offense. [Health & S C §13113.7(e)]

Smoke alarm rules for rentals

If your client owns a multi-unit residential property or a single family residence (SFR) rental property, they are required to install, maintain and test smoke alarms on their property. [Health & S C §13113.7(d)(2)]

Owners (or property managers, as owners’ agents) are required to ensure smoke alarms are operable when a new tenancy is created. [Health & S C §13113.7(d)(2)(B)]

To ensure safe conditions, residential rental and lease agreement forms include a provision requiring the landlord to comply with all safety ordinance and regulations, including smoke alarm law. [See first tuesday Forms 550 §7.3 and551 §7.2]

However, tenants are responsible for notifying the owner or property manager if the smoke alarm becomes inoperable. The owner is not in violation of smoke alarm requirements if they are unaware of a malfunction in the smoke alarm after the tenant is given possession. [Health & S C §13113.7(d)(2)(B)]

An owner responds to a tenant’s notification of an inoperable smoke alarm in their unit by correcting the defect. 24-hour written notice is given to the tenant before the owner or their agent enters and performs the repairs. Repairs are performed only during business hours. [Health & S C §13113.7(d)(2); see first tuesday Form 567]

Additionally, beginning January 1, 2016 owners of any residential rental property are to install additional smoke alarms to ensure devices are located in accordance with current local building standards. [Health & S C §13113.7(d)(3)]

In California, smoke alarms are to be installed on each floor and in each sleeping room. Proper smoke alarm placement also depends on local ordinance. [Calif. Building Code §310.9]

The recent law changes do not mandate the frequency of owner inspections. However, landlords have a duty to inspect the premises upon entry for any purpose. Inspections need not be thorough, but landlords are liable for any dangerous condition that is observable by a reasonable person. [Mora v. Baker Commodities, Inc. (1989) 210 CA3d 771]

Thus, if a smoke alarm defect can be reasonably ascertained visually during a landlord’s visit to the unit, the landlord needs to repair or replace the device.

Enforcement on a building permit

Additionally, smoke alarm enforcement is triggered when a residential property owner seeks a building permit for alterations, repairs or additions costing more than $1,000. Building permits will not be issued until the owner has provided proof that State Fire Marshal-approved smoke alarms are in place and operable. [Health & S C §13113.7(a)(2)]

This does not require the owner to replace any older, operating smoke alarms, but older smoke alarms are required to have been approved by the State Fire Marshal at the time of installation. [Health & S C §13113.7(a)(4)]


Here is the regulation from the Cal Fire Website:

Approximately two-thirds of home fire deaths occur in homes without working smoke alarms. Since most fatal fires occur at night, it’s essential that every home has working smoke alarms to provide an early warning. Working smoke alarms increase the chance of surviving a home fire by 50 percent.

Install smoke alarms in every bedroom, in the hallways leading to the bedrooms, and on each level of your home, including the basement. Smoke alarms should be mounted on the ceiling 4” from the wall; wall mounts should be 4-12” from the ceiling. Do not install near draft areas (windows, vents.). Call your local fire department if you are unsure about placement.

A drawing of an approved home evacuation plan Battery Replacement
Smoke alarms with non-replaceable (long-life) batteries are designed to remain effective for up to 10 years. If the alarm chirps, warning that the battery is low, replace the entire smoke alarm right away. For smoke alarms with any other type of battery, replace batteries at least once a year. If the alarm chirps, replace only the battery.

Smoke Alarm Maintenance
Test your smoke alarm. A suggested frequency is every month by simply holding down the test button. Vacuum your alarm at least once a year. Dust and cobwebs can impair sensitivity. Never paint over a smoke alarms. Smoke alarms should be replaced every 10 years.


I found this: CARBON-MONOXIDE DETECTORS on this:

Q 1.  What is carbon monoxide?

A  Carbon monoxide is a gas produced whenever any fuel, such as gas, oil, kerosene, wood, or charcoal, is burned.  A person cannot see or smell carbon monoxide.  However, at high levels carbon monoxide can kill a person in minutes.

In addition, there are well-documented chronic health effects of acute carbon monoxide poisoning from exposure to carbon monoxide, such as lethargy, headaches, concentration problems, amnesia, psychosis, Parkinson’s disease, memory impairment, and personality alterations.

(Cal. Health & Safety Code § 13261.)

Q 2.  Is there a new California law dealing with the issue of carbon monoxide poisoning?

A  Yes.  The Carbon Monoxide Poisoning Prevention Act of 2010 (Cal. Health & Safety Code §§ 13260 et seq.) was signed into law this year.  It requires carbon monoxide detectors to be installed in every “dwelling unit intended for human occupancy.”   The California legislature also modified both the TDS (for residential one-to-four unit real property) and MHTDS (for manufactured homes and mobilehomes) to include a reference to carbon monoxide detector devices.  See below for more details.

Q 3.  What is a carbon monoxide detector?

A  It is a relatively inexpensive device similar to a smoke detector that signals detection of carbon monoxide in the air.  Under the law, a carbon monoxide device is “designed to detect carbon monoxide and produce a distinct audible alarm.”  It can be battery powered, a plug-in device with battery backup, or a device installed as recommended by Standard 720 of the National Fire Protection Association that is either wired into the alternating current power line of the dwelling unit with a secondary battery backup or connected to a system via a panel.

If the carbon monoxide device is combined with a smoke detector, it must emit an alarm or voice warning in a manner that clearly differentiates between a carbon monoxide alarm warning and a smoke detector warning.
The carbon monoxide device must have been tested and certified pursuant to the requirements of the American National standards Institute (ANSI) and Underwriters Laboratories Inc. (UL) as set forth in either ANSI/UL 2034 or ANSI/UL 2075, or successor standards, by a nationally recognized testing laboratory listed in the directory of approved testing laboratories established by the Building Materials Listing Program of the Fire Engineering Division of the Office of the State Fire Marshal of the Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

(Cal. Health & Safety Code § 13262.)

Q 4.  How does a homeowner comply with this law?

A  Every owner of a “dwelling unit intended for human occupancy” must install an approved carbon monoxide device in each existing dwelling unit having a fossil fuel burning heater or appliance, fireplace, or an attached garage.

The applicable time periods are as follows:

(1) For all existing single-family dwelling units on or before July 1, 2011.

(2) For all other existing dwelling units on or before Jan. 1, 2013.

(Cal. Health & Safety Code § 17926(a).)

Q 5.  How many devices and where do I place them in the home?

A  This new law requires the owner “to install the devices in a manner consistent with building standards applicable to new construction for the relevant type of occupancy or with the manufacturer’s instructions, if it is technically feasible to do so” (Cal. Health & Safety Code § 17926(b)).

The following language comes packaged with carbon monoxide (CO) detectors:

For minimum security, a CO Alarm should be centrally located outside of each separate sleeping area in the immediate vicinity of the bedrooms.  The Alarm should be located at least 6 inches (152mm) from all exterior walls and at least 3 feet (0.9 meters) from supply or return vents.

Building standards applicable to new construction are as follows (overview summary only):

• Section R315 et seq. of the 2010 edition California Residential Code (CRC) [effective Jan. 1, 2011] (applicable to new one-to-two family dwellings and townhouses not more than 3 stories and also where work requiring a permit for alterations, repairs or additions exceeding one thousand dollars in existing dwellings units):

Installed outside of each separate sleeping area in the immediate vicinity of the bedroom(s) in dwelling units and on every level including basements within which fuel-fired appliances are installed and in dwelling units that have attached garages.

• Section 420 et seq of the 2010 edition California Building Code (CBC) [effective Jan. 1, 2011] (applicable to other new dwelling units and also where a permit is required for alterations, repairs or additions exceeding $1,000 in existing dwelling units):

Installed outside of each separate sleeping area in the immediate vicinity of the bedroom(s) in dwelling units and on every level including basements within which fuel-fired appliances are installed and in dwelling units that have attached garages.



5 Replies to “Smoke Alarms and CO Alarms in CALIFORNIA… What, Where and When?”

  1. Nice!
    It would also be quite helpful if there were a “Bullet-point” summary of the requirements!

  2. If your landlord hasn’t installed any CO detectors, and I’ve been living hear for at least 3 years, is there anything I can do legally? Today PG&E turned my gas off due to a gas and CO leak that’s been going for a year if not longer.

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