Are Landlords Responsible for Replacing Smoke Detectors and Batteries?

Are Landlords Responsible for Replacing Smoke Detectors and Batteries?

Last Updated: December 12, 2023 by Jessica Menefee

Landlords are generally responsible for providing smoke detectors, but it’s usually the tenant’s responsibility to replace batteries if needed. Many landlords will often provide batteries and send reminders to tenants.

Identifying Issues With Smoke Detectors

Legally, landlords need to ensure smoke alarms are functioning properly. Learning the sounds of smoke alarms helps ensure the right type of maintenance is performed. Most smoke alarms follow the following pattern, but be sure to check your owner’s manual for more information.

  • If the alarm beeps once every 30 to 60 seconds, it means the battery is low and needs to be replaced
  • If the alarm beeps after replacing the battery, it means the alarm needs to be replaced
  • If the alarm beeps loudly and consistently, there is a fire emergency and you need to evacuate immediately
  • All smoke alarms need to be replaced after ten years

It is a good idea to provide this information to tenants with specific instructions for your model. This can help alleviate some maintenance requests for issues with the smoke alarm

Providing and Maintaining Smoke Detectors in a Rental Unit

Providing and maintaining smoke alarms in a rental unit is necessary. Having a proper smoke alarm protects both the tenant and your property. Tenants are 55% more likely to survive a house fire with a working smoke alarm.

Do Landlords Provide Smoke Detectors?

Landlords are required to provide smoke alarms in almost every state. Some states also require landlords to provide carbon monoxide detectors. Check out the map below to see the requirements in your state.

MAP From Carbon Monoxide and Smoke Detector Laws

How Much Do Hard-Wired Smoke Detectors Cost?

Hardwired smoke detectors cost as little as $9 per unit. Although they typically cost more to install, they are less expensive than battery-operated models.

Hardwired smoke detectors can be interconnected which notifies tenants in another area of the home that there is a hazard. Landlords with large rental homes or rental homes with two or more stories should consider this option.


If you pay for security services for your rental home, it is a good idea to see what additional services are offered. Many home security systems have monitored hard-wired smoke detectors which will notify emergency services of an issue.

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How to Replace a Smoke Detector

Replacing a smoke detector is another common maintenance task for a rental property. Learning to replace them on your own can save you time and money. Most smoke alarms are hardwired into the home’s electric system and have a backup battery if it loses power.

Here’s how to replace batteries in a hard-wired smoke detector:

  • Count how many you need – Check each room and hallway to know how many you need. Replacing them all at the same time makes it easy to keep track.
  • Choose the best model – Select a model that is compatible with the current model to keep things simple. Research models that have special features that may be most effective in the unit such as a dual carbon monoxide and smoke detector.
  • Check the certification and date – The smoke alarm should have a certification from a testing lab on the packaging (usually UL or ETL) and have a recent manufacturer date.
  • Turn off the power – A hard-wired smoke detector is connected directly to your electrical work, so be sure to turn off the power to your smoke detectors at the main circuit breaker to avoid any shocks.
  • Disconnect the wires – As you turn to open the smoke alarm there should be two or three exposed wires. Lightly press along the finger tab at the base of the unit to disconnect the wires from the smoke alarm.
  • Connect the new smoke detector – Use the instructions provided with the model you selected to connect the exposed wire to the new detector. Make sure you add any additional batteries needed or activate the backup battery in the unit.
  • Hang the new smoke detector – The new model may easily slide into the old mounting bracket already attached to the ceiling or wall. If not, you will need to mount the coordinating bracket to the wall.
  • Test the alarm – Turn the power back on and hit the test button for approximately 5 seconds before hearing the alarm sound. If the alarm doesn’t work for some reason, double-check the wiring and instructions to be sure you connected everything correctly.

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Should I Hire a Professional to Replace Smoke Detectors in a Rental?

There is no requirement to hire a professional to replace smoke alarms. It is important to hire a professional electrician to install the alarms as the most efficient options should be hard wired into your home. But, most people are capable of replacing smoke alarms on their own.

There are special circumstances when hiring a professional may be necessary, such as if the unit has tall ceilings or a two-story home with a detector you cannot reach with a ladder. In these situations, you can expect to spend between $70 to $150 for a professional’s services.

Changing Smoke Detector Batteries in a Rental Unit

The batteries in a smoke alarm need to be changed regularly (depending on the type of battery used) to ensure it is working properly.

Who’s Responsible for Changing Smoke Detector Batteries?

Landlords are responsible for providing a working smoke alarm at the beginning of the lease. However, if a battery needs to be replaced during the lease it is typically up to the tenant.

Landlords can always provide the batteries to the tenant with a note on how to replace the batteries to cover their bases.

Regardless, it is a good idea for landlords to check the smoke alarms and the dates that the battery was changed between tenants. If a battery needs to be replaced soon, it’s best to just handle it while the property is vacant.

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Steps to Replacing Your Smoke Detector Batteries

It is a good idea to understand how to replace a smoke detector battery in cases of a vacancy or a disabled tenant. Here are the steps to replacing your smoke detector batteries

  • Locate the smoke detector – Listen closely to determine which smoke detector is beeping. If it is just beeping once every 30 to 60 seconds, it is time to replace the battery
  • Identify the battery type – Locate the battery compartment and open the battery port. Determine which type of battery is needed for your model. Most smoke alarms use a 9 Volt battery or 2-3 AA batteries
  • Replace the battery – Place a new battery in the smoke detector. Write the date on the inside of the model so it is easy to keep track
  • Test your smoke alarm – Hold the test button for at least 5 seconds. You should hear a loud siren as if your smoke detector was going off. If you do, you are all set. If you don’t hear the sound, check that the battery was placed correctly and try again. If it still doesn’t work, it is time to replace the smoke detector.

Fire experts recommend that the battery is changed twice per year, even if the alarm isn’t beeping.

Smoke Alarm Safety Tips

Here are a few smoke alarm safety tips for landlords to keep in mind and share with tenants:

  • Every type of smoke alarm needs to be replaced every ten years
  • All 9-volt batteries should be replaced once per year
  • Fire experts suggest checking the smoke detector batteries twice per year. This can be easily added to a regular property home and maintenance check
  • There should be one smoke alarm in every sleeping area as well as directly outside the sleeping area. There should also be at least one smoke alarm on every level
  • Closed doors help slow the spread of smoke, heat, and fire