Smoke Alarms and Sprinkler Systems
Topics on this page
- Smoke Alarms
- Fire Safety for Mobility Impaired Individuals
- Sprinkler Systems
- Local Laws
Maryland state law requires that each sleeping area in a residential dwelling have an automatic smoke alarm. This requirement applies to one and two-family homes, apartment buildings, dormitories, and hotels.
A smoke alarm must meet four requirements:
- Installed in accordance with the National Fire Alarm Code
- Listed and labeled by a nationally recognized testing laboratory
- Able to sense visible or invisible particles of combustion
- Able to sound an alarm that will warn people in the sleeping area
When a smoke alarm should be replaced:
- 10 years after the manufacture date
- if the smoke alarm no longer works
- when there is a new tenant and the smoke alarms have not been upgraded within the last 10 years
- when a building permit is issued for an addition or a renovation Read the Law: Md. Code, Public Safety § 9-104
When replacing smoke alarms there are some important things to keep in mind:
- When replacing a battery only smoke alarm, the new alarm must have a sealed 10 year battery and a silent/hush feature.
- Never replace an AC powered smoke alarm with a battery-only alarm.
The landlord or property owner must install smoke alarms. A landlord is also responsible for repairing or replacing a tenant’s smoke alarm.
A tenant is responsible for testing the smoke alarms. If a smoke alarm needs to be repaired or replaced, the tenant must tell the landlord in writing. The landlord must acknowledge the tenant’s notice in writing and repair or replace the smoke alarm within 5 days of receiving the tenant’s notice.
A tenant may not remove or tamper with a smoke alarm. Read the Law: Md. Code, Public Safety § 9-106
A tenant who is deaf or hearing impaired can request from the landlord, in writing, a smoke alarm that provides a signal that will warn a deaf or hearing-impaired person. A landlord who gets a written request must provide an appropriate smoke alarm.
However, the landlord can require the tenant to reimburse the landlord for the cost of the smoke alarm. Read the Law: Md. Code, Public Safety § 9-105
The smoke alarm requirements for existing homes are based on when the home was constructed. The newer the building, the stricter the requirements. The requirements listed below apply to residential buildings like homes, apartments, and condominiums.
After 2018, all smoke alarms must be upgraded to meet certain minimum requirements. These upgrades are required regardless of the age of the home. The minimum requirements are:
- At least one smoke alarm on each level, including basements (excluding unoccupied attics, garages, and crawl spaces).
- Battery operated smoke alarms must use sealed 10 year lithium-ion batteries with a silent/hush feature. Read the Law: Md. Code, Public Safety § 9-104
In homes built after July 1, 2013: There must install a smoke alarm in:
- every bedroom
- every hallway or common area that is outside a bedroom, and
- on every floor of the house (including the basement but excluding the attic, garage and crawl spaces)
The alarms must be interconnected so that if any one alarm activates all of the alarms activate. The alarms must run on AC and have a battery backup. Read the Law: Md. Code, Public Safety § 9-103
Homes built after July 1, 1990: all smoke alarms must be AC powered and have a battery.
Homes built after January 1, 1989: each level must have at least one smoke alarm, including the basement. An alarm is not required in an unoccupied attic, garage, or crawl space. The alarms must be interconnected so that if any one alarm activates all of the alarms activate.
Homes built between July 1, 1975 - June 30, 1989: an AC powered smoke alarm is required in each bedroom.
Homes built before July 1, 1975: there must be a smoke alarm outside each bedroom. Smoke alarms in homes before 1975 may be battery only.
If a fire official investigates a fire and finds that the required smoke alarms were not installed, he or she will issue an order requiring the responsible landlord, owner, or occupant to install fire alarms. The alarm(s) must be installed within 5 days. Read the Law: Md. Code, Public Safety § 9-108
A person who is convicted of knowingly violating the laws or regulations regarding smoke alarms is guilty of a misdemeanor and may be fined up to $1,000, imprisoned up to 10 days, or both. Read the Law: Md. Code, Public Safety § 9-109
The State Fire Marshal or local fire marshal may grant certain exceptions from state or local fire and building codes. No exception may be granted to the smoke alarm requirements required by State law. Read the Law: Md. Code, Public Safety § 9-205
The owner of a residential high-rise building with must annually provide a written notice to all tenants to inform any mobility-impaired tenants of their right to request a rental unit on the first five floors of the building if one should become available. Read the Law: Md. Code, Public Safety § 9-405
Required in New Construction
Automatic sprinkler systems are required for newly constructed dormitories, hotels, rooming houses, and multi-family dwellings if the initial building permit was issued (or construction began) after July 1, 1990. A sprinkler system is also required in new townhouses built after July 1, 1992. The State Fire Marshal or appropriate local authority must approve the sprinkler system, and it must be installed in accordance with prescribed national, local, and state standards. However, these requirements do not apply to dwelling units that are not served by a public water supply system. Read the Law: MD Code, Public Safety § 9-204
The State Fire Marshal or the appropriate local authority may grant certain exceptions, including exceptions from these sprinkler system requirements, if there is clear evidence that the exception will not adversely affect the fire safety of the building or its occupants. Read the Law: MD Code, Public Safety § 9-205
Any person who knowingly violates these requirements is guilty of a misdemeanor and may be fined up to $1,000, imprisoned for up to 10 days, or both. Read the Law: MD Code, Public Safety § 9-206
Many counties and cities have local laws that may have more restrictions on smoke alarms and sprinkler systems. To read the laws in your local jurisdiction, visit the Maryland Thurgood Marshall State Law Library website for county and municipal laws.