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Effective January 1, 2018, Maryland requires all homeowners to replace any smoke detectors that are more than 10 years old and to replace any battery-only alarms with sealed-in, long-life battery alarms with a “silence/hush” feature. The new law was adopted to address concerns from fire safety professionals that when 9-volt battery-operated smoke alarms lose power and chirp to signal for battery replacement, homeowners remove the batteries to stop the noise, but then forget to replace the batteries. The new law requiring battery-only alarms to have sealed-in batteries is designed to prevent that problem. Real estate brokers representing home sellers in Montgomery County should be familiar with state and local laws regarding smoke alarms in order to properly advise their clients on the required locations of smoke alarms and when it is necessary to replace them.
First, existing Montgomery County law includes specific requirements for the location of smoke detectors in existing homes. For residences constructed prior to July 1, 1975, smoke alarms are required to be installed outside of each sleeping area; these alarms can be battery operated. for homes built between July 1, 1975 and June 30, 1990, hard-wired smoke alarms are required in every sleeping area in the home. Finally, for homes constructed after January 1, 1989, a hard-wired smoke alarm with battery back-up is required in every bedroom and on every level of a home, including the basement; these alarms must be interconnected, so that if one alarm sounds, they all sound.
Second, as of January 1, 2018, all homeowners statewide must replace any smoke detectors that are more than 10 years old. Hard-wired systems older than ten years must be replaced with new hard-wired alarms with battery back-up. If smoke alarms are battery-only, they must be replaced with sealed-in, 10-year/long-life batteries with a “silence/hush” feature. The age of a smoke alarm can generally be determined by referring to the printed material on the underside of the alarm. It is important to note that battery-only smoke alarms – even with the new long-life, sealed-in batteries – are only permitted if the homeowner is replacing battery-only alarms, most likely found in homes built before 1975.
Sealed-in, 10-year/long-life battery alarms should not be confused with 9-volt alarms with a 10-year manufacturer’s warranty. Hardware stores still sell the 9-volt battery-only smoke alarms, but these models do not satisfy the requirements discussed in this article and should be used for supplemental protection only.
Although the new law does not provide fire authorities with the right to enter homes for the purposes of confirming compliance with the law, violation of the law is a misdemeanor carrying penalties of imprisonment up to 10 days and/or a fine up to $1,000. Prior to the sale of a home, sellers should confirm compliance with the law. At a minimum, non-compliance must be noted in Section 8A of the Maryland Residential Property Disclosure Statement. An overview of all the requirements and reminders on maintenance protocols is available through the Montgomery County Fire and Rescue website.
For more information regarding our Residential Real Estate Settlements Group or our general real estate transactions and litigation practice, please contact the Group Chair at 301-230-6574 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
This publication/newsletter is for informational purposes and does not contain or convey legal advice. The information herein should not be used or relied upon in regard to any particular facts or circumstances without first consulting a lawyer.
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