Michigan Smoke and Radon Detectors Advice Needed.

9 Replies

I'm a Michigan landlord who resides in a two-story, side-by-side duplex (3-bed each) and has the other side rented. It's been a long time since I've been very active in the RE world. If I understand the laws correctly, I need to add smoke alarms to each bedroom. As of now, I have only one smoke alarm on the main floor and one in the hall of the 2nd story (in each unit). I also have a basement that runs the length of both units and it has been recommended to me to have a detector in the basements, too.

So, my first question is, does this mean I need 6 alarms in each unit? (3 in each bedroom, 1 in the upstairs hallway, one on the main floor, and one in the basement).

My next question is, what type do I want to get? I'm on a really low budget but want to be up to code. And where might I find a good deal? Amazon?

And one more question. From what I understand in the current laws, I need a radon detector for the other unit (have one already in mine). Is it a good idea to have a combo smoke/radon detector?

I'm hoping to be renting out my side of the duplex next year, and am also looking to bring things up to code for Section 8.

Thanks, anyone and everyone for any helpful advice you might have.

@Christine Seeley There are county specific laws and laws to specific go those who owner occupy. I am not aware of radon requirements in any area as long as you are not aware of a radon issue. Are you looking at Sparta specifically? I would call the local.

municipality on clarity for this

Like he said check you local. I believe you need one in each bedroom and one in the hallway immediately outside the bedrooms, one on main floor and one in the basement. Rules may not apply to your living area but I would suggest doing the same there. I know nothing about a radon detector requirement.

Don't take the advice of strangers on the internet. Go find out what you need to do from the appropriate local authorities. This is a legitimate safety issue and you should not cut any corners.

Best thing to do is swing by your municipality's building department and have a chat with the right person. In my city the rules around smoke detectors are insanely complicated and based on such things as the date of the last "major" renovation (defined by the type of permit that was pulled) and the date of the last sale of the property. As a result, no two houses seem to have the same installation. 

The safest setup would be to have hard-wired smoke and CO detectors with sealed battery backups. But that is not cheap to install, and your building may be able to be done with battery units alone (if your local authorities allow it). Even then, the sealed battery units (good for ~10 years, replace the whole thing when it dies) are generally considered safer since they don't rely on owners to change the batteries every year.

Radon is most often an issue in basements. Typically for radon you would run a test for it, then if the test came back positive you would install a basement mitigation system for ~$1-2k (pretty much a fancy fan that vents your basement). 

Are you thinking of CO? That is a real issue and a CO monitor is generally required anywhere you have combustion (gas-fired water heaters, furnaces, garages, etc.). Again, check with your local folks.

Hey Christine, state and local laws apply here. Like others have said call your city / county to check with them.

State rules dictate:

1. One in each bedroom

2. 1 Outside of each separate sleeping area in the immediate vicinity of the bedrooms (meaning hallways)

3. One for each additional story of the dwelling including basements and habitable attics but not including crawl spaces or uninhabitable attics. Different rules for split levels but it doesn’t sound like that is you.

For basements they generally need to be placed at the foot of the staircase on the ceiling, do not put them on a wall horizontally.  We generally place an extra at the top of the stairs in the landing (if there is one) as well but that isn’t code.

We also use the combo smoke/carbon wireless interconnected ones so when one goes off they all go off on tenant turns and new acquisitions and we use the non wireless ones for existing units, but still the combo smoke/carbon.

We also make sure to test them when moving in a tenant, in front of the tenant and have them sign a separate smoke detector addendum to the lease that states they alarms were working at move-in, they understand they are not to remove and they are responsible for the batteries and maintenance.

Trust me, like liability insurance, this isn’t one area to cut corners, costs or processes.

Thanks, everyone for your input. I appreciate all of it.

Jason Turgeon, I will talk with the local authorities to get it straight from them. And yes, (head hanging low) I did mean CO (Carbon Monoxide), not radon. 

@Christine Seeley what @Scott M. said is spot on for State requirements and calling the building department will get you a nice quick answer. 

I'll add that my experience has been that battery powered smoke detectors with 10 year batteries have been the minimum for the areas that I invest in (though I'm on the east side of the state); unless you're doing some type of structural rehab, in which case a hardwired detector is required. 

I've heard good and bad reviews on combo detectors and have used both, so far so good on both fronts. 

I think the most important takeaway after follow local and state ordinances would be to ensure that the devices are maintained and replaced when needed.