QUESTION: Smoke Detector/Fire Extinguishers

11 Replies

Hey everyone.  I'm nearing Closing on my first two properties.  Both are multiplexes (4 unit and 5 unit).  For those of you with multiplexes, do you use smoke detectors that are "linked" to each other?  In other words, if the detectors sounds off in Unit 1, the detectors also alarm Units 2, 3, etc.?  I can see pros and cons of the "linked" and "standalone" detectors.  

Second, what are your thoughts on placement of extinguishers?  For reference of my current perspective, (in my two-story home) my 5 detectors are "linked" and I have 4 extinguishers (1 specific for kitchen use and 1 general purpose in each of these areas:  main floor, second floor and garage.  

Are there any state/county/etc. laws that mandate these safety items in rentals?  Lastly, these properties are in rural communities and I will check with local offices.  

Thanks in advance...


We are mandated (for multi units) to install hard wired Smoke/CO detectors that are positioned outside all bedrooms, apartment entry doors, basements near any heating or HW mechanicals & laundry rooms. 

We were recently mandated to install complete fire sprinkler systems & I have been actively doing it along with the required hardwired/battery backup EXIT signs. 

It was signed off as 'compliant' by the Bldg Insp. & our Commercial Architect as they could render the property non-complaint & shut us down. We always had fire extinguishers supplied but found most tenants buried them in a closet somewhere.

Having completed the Fire Sprinkler system (& after taking the design/install courses on it) I would definitely install it in any future new build.

Check your local law in RI we needed to have a fire alarm in a 5 or more unit building. They did a pre sale inspection and it had to pass, including exit signs and emergency lights. In some areas of MA you need a sprinkler in 3 units, others you do not, check with the fire department before closing.

I would like to piggyback on this and see how many people monitor and update their duplex, fourplex, type units with the latest smoke & carbon monoxide detectors? Am I obligated as a landlord to continually check on this? 

If I have them installed, is the tenant responsible for keeping the batteries in check while occupying the place? 

The reason I ask is I have gone in after they have vacated to find out that the batteries had died and were removed. Probably because they were annoyed by the warning beep and didn't notify me?

Should I be checking in on them regularly? If the units are older, do they need to be brought up to current code?

you need to investigate, because the rules for a 4 unit (considered residential) and the 5 unit (considered commercial) in many jurisdictions in WI you must have a sprinkler system in the 5 unit, some places require it in 3 or more units, as well as hard wired interconnected smoke and CO detectors, you may be able to get away with the wireless inter connected units, but check with the local fire inspector. 

A friend found these links for me (chime in if you found something else):

1 or 2 family units:

3 or more units:

You should always check with state and local laws. In California at least for new buildings we need fire extinguishers within 75 from any point in the building. However even though my rental has one in the stairwell 15 feet from the 1br unit entry door I bought one to keep in the unit. For less than $50 I like the peace of mind knowing my tenant won't panic run out to get the extinguisher if they even remember it is there then have the door lock behind them.

As for linking smoke detectors between units I would only do that if required by law. You don't want to get tenant complaints every time a neighbor burns their bacon. (however check with local law, this is not legal advice)

CO detector, 10 year battery life is required in California.

Most detectors are sensitive to dust and creating emitting occasional nuisance sound even you replaced the battery.

Chk on fire resistant door burning time and escape hanging ladder requirements( more than 1 story) in your area.

HI Drew, 

When I go through the apartment with my tenant to sign the lease I open up a fresh pack of batteries and put them in.  I then have them sign that there are new batteries and they are now responsible for keeping the batteries in the detector and replacing them when needed.  

It also wouldn't hurt if your going there for one reason or another to just test them out quickly would only take a few extra seconds.

All fire/smoke system requirements are at the state/local level and therefore are different based on your locale.

That’s one thing I would be 100% that you’re up to date on. You don’t want to have a fire and try to explain that it’s not your fault that the renter took down the smoke detector.

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