A California law taking effect July 1 aims to eventually phase out smoke detectors that take replaceable batteries.

For now, however, landlords just need to make sure they’re existing smoke alarms are working.  So don’t go ripping your nine-volt powered smoke alarm from the ceiling.

For many, the biggest changes in the law will hit then and mainly affect retailers

The law first focuses on the folks selling smoke detectors. It says battery-powered smoke alarms sold in the Golden State must have non-replaceable, non-removable batteries that last for at least 10 years. This regulation, however, has a yearlong exception that will keep old-fashioned-but-in-stock smoke detectors from going to waste.

Property owners, managing agents, contractors, wholesalers or retailers with replaceable-battery smoke alarms in stock or on order can keep installing or selling them through July 1, 2015.

For many, the biggest changes in the law will hit then and mainly affect retailers. At that point, selling smoke detectors with replaceable batteries will be illegal.

Also in a year, the law will require that all smoke alarms or combination smoke alarms/carbon monoxide detectors sold do the following:

  • Display the date of manufacture
  • Provide a place on the device where the date of installation can be written
  • Incorporate a hush feature
  • Incorporate an end-of-life feature that provides notice that the device needs to be replaced.

Another part of the law will roll out six months later. This is when property owners will see the biggest change.

By Jan. 1, 2016, owners of rental units must install smoke alarms in each bedroom or other sleeping area. These alarms must meet all of the fire marshal’s requirements.

If a smoke alarm is already in place and working, however, state law won’t require the landlord to change it out – even if the old alarm takes a replaceable battery. If it’s 2016 or later when the smoke detector finally stops working, only battery-powered replacements with the 10-year lifespans will be available, at least in California.

While the law taking effect next week might not affect you directly for another year and a half, make sure you’re in compliance with the law by reviewing the California Apartment Association’s White Paper on fire protection systems.

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