Laws for Landlords & Tenants

If you are a landlord of residential rental homes or a residential property management company, then here is a copy of the Tennessee law regarding smoke detectors in residential rental property.

Tennessee Code 68-102-151 - One-Family or Two-Family Rental Units - Smoke Detectors Required

a) As used in this section, unless the context otherwise requires:

(1) "Approved smoke detector" means a device that senses visible or invisible particles of combustion and that has been investigated and listed in accordance with standards prescribed by:

(A) A nationally recognized and approved independent testing agency or laboratory, such as Underwriters' Laboratories' Standard for Single and Multiple Station Smoke Detectors (UL 217); or

(B) An agency authorized to make independent inspections by the state fire marshal; and

(2) "A one-family or two-family rental unit" means any rental building containing one or two living units with independent cooking and bathroom facilities, whether designated as a house, cottage, duplex, condominium or by any other name.

(b) Notwithstanding the provisions of chapter 120 of this title, or any other laws to the contrary, it is unlawful to:

(1) Own or operate a one-family or two-family rental unit without installing an approved smoke detector in each living unit; when activated, the detector shall initiate an alarm that is audible in the sleeping rooms of the living unit; or

(2) Tamper with or remove any smoke detector required by this section, or a component of a smoke detector.

(c) All smoke detectors required by this section shall be installed in accordance with the 2003 International Residential Code, published by the International Code Council, Inc., and in accordance with the manufacturer's directions, unless those directions conflict with applicable codes that are adopted by the state fire marshal. Notwithstanding the provisions of the 2003 International Residential Code, battery operated smoke detectors shall be permitted when installed in buildings without commercial power.

(d) (1) Any smoke detector required by this section shall be maintained by the tenant of the living unit where the smoke detector is located in accordance with the manufacturer's instructions. However, upon termination of a tenancy in a rental unit, the owner of the unit shall ensure that any required smoke detector is operational prior to reoccupancy of the unit.

(2) No alarm silencing switch or audible trouble silencing switch shall be provided, unless its silenced position is indicated by a readily apparent signal.

(3) Compliance with this section does not relieve any person from the requirements of any other applicable law, ordinance, rule, or regulation. Nothing contained within the provisions of this section shall be construed to be in derogation of the provisions of § 68-120-111.

(e) (1) Any person violating the provisions of this section commits a Class A misdemeanor. Each day on which a violation continues constitutes a separate offense under this section.

(2) The provisions of § 68-120-106 shall apply with respect to the enforcement of this section.

(f) The state fire marshal shall periodically undertake appropriate activities to encourage compliance with and enforcement of the provisions of this section, as well as the provisions of §§ 68-120-111 and 68-120-112.

Tips for Landlords & Tenants

Make sure that smoke detectors are installed in every single rental unit you lease out; this being accordance to the Tennessee Code Annotated (TCA). Ideally, you should have smoke detectors that are hard-wired into the electrical system of the rental unit, and that use batteries simply for backup. Landlords arguably also have the duty to maintain smoke detectors, so hard-wired detectors reduce the need for constant landlord inspection and replacement of batteries.

If you do not have hard-wired smoke detectors, periodically inspect and push the "test button" on the detectors, and also replace batteries as needed.

Include a provision in your lease (and require your tenant to specifically initial it) stating and acknowledging that there are working smoke detectors in the rental unit at the time of move-in, and that they have personally had the opportunity to inspect and test the smoke detectors, and that they acknowledge and agree that they are responsible for replacing the batteries and periodically testing the smoke detectors.

Never, ever live in a dwelling unit that does not have working smoke detectors, even if you have a difficult landlord and unfairly end up having to purchase and maintain the smoke detectors yourself. The danger to life and property is simply too great.

If the landlord fails to comply with installing smoke alarms, call the Codes office at City Hall 615-325-6776.