Georgia law requires a working smoke detector on every habitable level of any rental property plus the basement. Non-finished attics are excluded. And even if your county didn’t require it, you should go ahead and install one on each floor of your rental house.
Know that a hard-wired smoke detector is always preferable to a battery operated unit, but either one is much better than none at all. The hard-wired units require no maintenance, and operating on house power, eliminating the need for battery replacement.
A couple years ago, we had a serious fire in one of our rental houses, and, thank goodness, we have never had an injury or loss of life. The lady was cooking fried chicken in a skillet and claimed she turned around and the skillet was on fire. I think the truth is that she left the room to watch her little daughter perform cartwheels or something.
In any case, when she finally got back to the kitchen, the fire was already out of control. The house nearly burned down, but insurance covered everything, including 5 months of lost rent while we rebuilt and repaired. The important thing to me was that no one was hurt, and no one was suing me for ten million bucks.
Interestingly, data shows that most fires experienced by tenants originate in the kitchen, and grease fires on the stove are quite common.
In the event, heaven forbid, that you do have a fire, you’ll be in a very vulnerable position if you didn’t install a $10 smoke detector. I buy them on sale at the hardware store for less than $5 each and keep several in my trunk. Anytime a new resident moves in, I make them test the smoke detector. It’s just a good idea.
Here’s another good idea from fellow landlord Brent Sobol:
After having the new resident test the smoke detector, he tells them that if the battery ever wears out, he will provide them a new one for free, just for asking. He figures it only costs about a dollar per battery, and sends the right message to residents: The smoke detector is important!
Georgia has statewide requirements for placing smoke alarms in existing and new homes. To find safety tips and additional local requirements, please contact your county fire office.
However, you can use the following guidelines to choose, properly install and connect smoke alarms.
HERE ARE THE APPLICABLE GEORGIA REGULATIONS, as provided by the Georgia State FIre Marshal in August of 2020:
TITLE 25 – FIRE PROTECTION AND SAFETY
CHAPTER 2 – REGULATION OF FIRE AND OTHER HAZARDS TO PERSONS AND PROPERTY GENERALLY
§ 25-2-40 – Smoke detectors required in new dwellings and dwelling units; exceptions
O.C.G.A. 25-2-40 (2010)
25-2-40. Smoke detectors required in new dwellings and dwelling units; exceptions
(a)(1) Except as otherwise provided in subsection (f) of this Code section, on and after July 1, 1987, every new dwelling and every new dwelling unit within an apartment, house, condominium, and townhouse and every motel, hotel, and dormitory shall be provided with an approved listed smoke detector installed in accordance with the manufacturer’s recommendations and listing.
(2) On and after July 1, 1994, every dwelling and every dwelling unit within an apartment, house, condominium, and townhouse and every motel, hotel, and dormitory which was constructed prior to July 1, 1987, shall have installed an approved battery operated smoke detector which shall be maintained in good working order unless any such building is otherwise required to have a smoke detector system pursuant to Code Section 25-2-13.
The entire law can be found:
Georgia Code Title 25. Fire Protection and Safety § 25-2-40
There are many different brands of smoke alarms available on the market but they fall under two basic types:
Ionization and Photoelectric.
Ionization alarms sound more quickly when a flaming, fast moving fire occurs. Photoelectric alarms are quicker at sensing smoldering, smoky fires. There are also combination smoke alarms that combine ionization and photoelectric into one unit, called dual sensor smoke alarms.
Because both ionization and photoelectric smoke alarms are better at detecting distinctly different yet potentially fatal fires, and because homeowners cannot predict what type of fire might start in a home, the USFA recommends the installation of both ionization and photoelectric or dual sensor smoke alarms.
In addition to the basic types of alarms, there are alarms made to meet the needs of people with hearing disabilities. These alarms may use strobe lights that flash and/or vibrate to assist in alerting those who are unable to hear standard smoke alarms when they sound.
For more information please visit:
Installation of Smoke Detectors:
Georgia general guidelines for smoke alarm placement:
(b) In dwellings, dwelling units, and other facilities listed in subsection (a) of this Code
section, a smoke detector shall be mounted on the ceiling or wall at a point centrally located
in the corridor or area giving access to each group of rooms used for sleeping purposes.
Where the dwelling or dwelling unit contains more than one story, detectors are required on
each story including cellars and basements, but not including uninhabitable attics;…
All corridors and common spaces shall be provided with smoke detectors in accordance with NFPA 72, National Fire Alarm Code, arranged to initiate the fire alarm such that it is audible in all sleeping areas.
Detectors shall be located in corridors or hallways so there is a detector within 15 feet (4.6 m) of the wall and at least every 30 feet (9.1 m) thereafter. Where a building has more than one floor level, a detector shall be located at the top of each stair and inside each enclosure. (Refer to 3.3.184)
Exception No. 1: Detectors may be excluded from crawl spaces beneath the building
and unused and unfinished attics.
Exception No. 2: Unenclosed corridors, passageways, balconies, colonnades, or other
arrangements where one or more sides along the long dimension are fully or extensively open to the exterior at all times.”
For more information please visit: OCGA Title 25, Chapter 2, Code Section 25-2-40.
Guidelines for connecting the smoke alarm:
Please contact your county fire office for information on connecting your smoke alarm.
For more information, contact:
JOHN F. KING, Safety Fire Commissioner
Office of Insurance and Safety Fire Commissioner
Two Martin Luther King, Jr. Drive
West Tower, Suite 704
Atlanta, Georgia 30334
Main Telephone: 404-656-2070
Toll Free: 800-656-2298