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Ensuring the Safety of Your Rental Home

One in seven fire-related deaths in California are due to a missing or malfunctioning smoke alarms And every year more than 50 Californians die of carbon monoxide poisoning. 

Incidents of both are more common in the winter months, when people are turning up their heating systems, decorating their homes, and getting together, so please be sure your property is protected and your tenants are safe.

Smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors save lives. They’re also part of your legal responsibilities as a landlord, with strict penalties enforced for missing, broken, or damaged alarms. 

Smoke alarms

Every single residential property needs at least one working smoke alarm, according to the California Fire Code. 

Landlords must install and maintain these devices, making sure they’re in good working order and also maintaining the primary and secondary power supply to the alarm system. Smoke alarms must be permanently connected to an electrical circuit with no disconnect switch, or be battery-operated.

Your tenants should also receive a copy of the manufacturer’s instructions of your smoke alarm. It’s good practice to go over this with them, making sure they understand how it works, what the alarm sounds like, and what to do in the event of a fire.

The Code is also very clear on where alarms need to be placed – in the hallway of dwelling units where sleeping areas are served by a hallway, or between the sleeping area and the remainder of the unit when not served by a hallway. 

Smoke alarms must be installed on each stored of a dwelling unit without a sleeping area, and inside sleeping areas not in a dwelling unit. 

Test your smoke alarm regularly – once a year, between tenants, and/or if you’re making any changes to the electrical circuit.

Staying compliant with fire safety regulations protects both landlords and tenants, but it’s important to go beyond the minimum standards and follow good fire safety practices:

  • Make sure you and your tenant have a fire escape plan in place in case of emergency

  • Consider running through fire evacuation drills so tenants know exactly what’s expected

  • Place fire extinguishers in high-risk areas such as the kitchen, and make sure your tenants know how to use them

  • Tell your tenants to keep exit points free from clutter and make sure all windows and doors can be opened quickly and easily

Carbon monoxide detectors

Known as a silent killer, carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless, and tasteless gas that can be fatal when inhaled. More than 65% of deaths and injuries from carbon monoxide poisoning occur in the home, according to the Association of Fire Chiefs.

The regulation concerning carbon monoxide alarms is similar to smoke alarms – landlords have to install, maintain, test, and service them. 

Landlords are responsible for installing one carbon monoxide alarm per sleeping unit in all buildings with residential occupancy and a fuel-burning appliance, a fireplace, or a storage garage. Carbon monoxide alarms also need to be permanently connected to an electrical circuit, or battery-operated.

Don’t just inspect your alarm either. Since carbon monoxide is released from fuel-burning appliances, it’s crucial to keep your furnace and other heating systems in good order with regular servicing and maintenance.

Additional carbon monoxide safety tips include:

  • Check your furnace and make sure there are no blocked vents

  • Advise your tenants to only use barbecues and generators outside

  • Only use space heaters in well-ventilated areas

  • Make sure your tenants know the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning – headaches, nausea, dizziness, and confusion

If you’re still unsure about safety in your rental, consider setting up a meeting with us. Central Coast Property Management is familiar with all landlord-related regulations, including the California Fire Code, and can advise property owners what they need to stay safe and compliant. 

Our experienced team runs regular inspections, making sure smoke and carbon monoxide alarms are up to code, and also handles any maintenance issues so issues are resolved quickly and efficiently. For more on our property management services, contact us today.



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