Rentals and Smoke Detectors
by M. Jane Garvey
Over many years, I have observed that some residents in my rental properties will disable or remove smoke detectors. I install them in all the required places and make sure that any battery-operated units have new batteries, and the residents have instructions. I go one step further. I show them each unit, demonstrate that it works, and have the resident sign that they are all in place and working on the move-in date. I emphasize the importance of these devices for safety. The lease calls for the renter to check them periodically, make sure the batteries are replaced, and notify me if they need help with this, or if units need replacement.
Disappointingly, I frequently get properties back from vacating renters where the detectors are in a kitchen drawer or missing altogether. If they are still in place, they are often missing their batteries. I used to think residents were using them as a source of batteries for kids’ toys. Despite a new law in my state requiring 10-year sealed battery detectors in residential units that aren’t hard-wired, I suspect the problem will persist.
You’ve had it happen. You’ve been annoyed by it yourself. A detector gets set off by something that is not a problem, but the ear-splitting alarm is painful. Steam from a shower, some fumes from the kitchen, or other temporary disturbances set one of your detectors off. The good news is, there are ways of dealing with an annoying detector other than putting your family at risk by removing it. The bad news is, doing an internet search on how to reset a smoke alarm is not something that is easily done while it is blasting in your ear. So, prepare for it and learn how they work beforehand.
In the case of your renters, teach them ahead of time. When you are having them agree in writing that all units are in place and operational, you can show them the reset buttons. This goes for hardwired detectors as well. Your renters will forget almost anything you tell them as they are moving in, so reinforce this a few weeks later. An email is a great way to do it. If your renter needs assistance with any of these things, make sure you provide it. Smoke detectors may be an occasional nuisance, but they do save lives.
Jane Garvey is President of the Chicago Creative Investors Association.