Q: What are my requirements under law for smoke detectors?

Maryland law has many provisions for smoke detectors and it’s important that you comply with all of them.  Ridgecrest can help you stay in compliance.

General Requirements
Each sleeping area in a residential occupancy (includes all buildings designed to provide sleeping accommodations, such as 1 and 2-family dwellings, apartment buildings, hotels, motels, dormitories, rooming houses, etc.) must be provided with at least one approved smoke detector installed in a manner and location approved by the Maryland Fire Prevention Commission. The detector must provide an alarm suitable to warn the occupants.

For all new dwelling units for which a building construction permit is issued on or after January 1, 1989, and which have alternating current (AC) service, there must be at least one smoke detector on each level including the basement level, but excluding the attic. If two or more smoke detectors are required in the dwelling unit because of this provision, they must be of the type and installed in a way that activation of one causes activation of all of the other required detectors in the unit.

Battery and electric power
In all new dwelling units for which a building permit is issued on or after July 1, 1990 and which contain alternating current electrical service, all smoke detectors must be of the kind that operate both by battery and on an alternating current primary source of power.

Installation and Maintenance
In a 1, 2, or 3-family dwelling built before July 1, 1975, the occupant of each unit must equip the unit with at least one approved battery or AC primary electric power smoke detector. The occupant must also maintain the detector in good working order.

In all other rental occupancies, the landlord is responsible for installing the smoke detector and, upon notice in person or upon written notice by certified mail from the tenant, the landlord is responsible for repair or replacement of the detector. If tenant personally notifies landlord of a mechanical failure, landlord must give tenant a written receipt acknowledging the notification.

Tenant may not remove a smoke detector or make it inoperative.

Landlord may require a refundable deposit for the detector, not exceeding the value of the detector. This provision does not apply to hotels or motels.

Accommodation for hearing-impaired occupants
Where a deaf or hearing-impaired occupant has made a written request to the landlord, the landlord must provide a smoke detector which can emit a light signal that is approved by a nationally recognized testing laboratory for electrical appliances, and is sufficient to warn the deaf or hearing-impaired person.

All hotels and motels must have at least one special smoke detector for the deaf or hearing-impaired for each 50 units or less. The proprietor may require a refundable deposit for a portable smoke detector which is not more than the value of the detector.

The proprietor of the hotel or motel must post a conspicuous sign at the registration desk or counter, stating that smoke detectors for the hearing-impaired are available.

Enforcement provision for dwellings built before July 1, 1975
Whenever a fire official investigates a fire in a 1, 2, or 3-family residential dwelling built before July 1, 1975 and finds that the required smoke detectors have not been installed, he will issue an order requiring the occupant to install detectors. Failure to comply with this order within 15 days of re-occupancy of the dwelling is punishable only by a fine not to exceed $50.00.

State approval for sale and installation
The sale and installation of smoke detection systems, including specialized detectors for the deaf and hearing-impaired, must be in accordance with the Maryland Fire Prevention Code and regulations. Every manufacturer commercially selling or offering for sale smoke detection systems in Maryland must get approval for each model from the State Fire Marshal.

Smoke detection systems may be used only for detection and signaling in the event of fire.

Sprinkler systems
Where approved by the Fire Prevention Commission, an approved automatic sprinkler system may be installed in place of a smoke detection system.

A person who knowingly violates this law or any regulation promulgated by the State Fire Prevention Commission will be fined not more than $1,000 or imprisoned for not more than 10 days, or both. Each day that a violation continues after knowledge or official notice that it is a violation, is a separate offense.