Local News

Disconnecting Your Smoke Detector Could Burn a Hole in Your Wallet

Posted December 27, 1998

— It can be annoying when your smoke detector goes off after a hot shower or when you cook. But the ringing device can save your life if fire breaks out in your home.

Starting Friday, if you disconnect your smoke detector, it could cost you.

Not installing a smoke detector could cost property owners $250. Damaging one could cost a tenant $100.

But some people say concentrating on the money misses the point. You should be concentrating on protecting yourself.

If more homes had smoke detectors, fewer people would die in fires.

Since 1996, North Carolina law has required landlords to install smoke detectors. Starting this week, the law has some teeth that could bite landlords and their tenants right in the checkbook.

Effective Friday, landlords who do not install smoke detectors can be fined up to $250. Tenants who damage them can be fined $100.

"We absolutely welcome this change in the law. Anything that the legislators can do to give us additional enforcement power to ensure people's safety, that helps us do our job," said Dan Jones, Chapel Hill fire department chief.

Chapel Hill is a good place to discuss the new get tough policy on smoke detectors. The town is more than a decade ahead of the state.

"We've required homeowners and property owners to provide smoke detectors since 1987. They must comply with our local ordinance, which is a Chapel Hill ordinance only," said Larry Johnson, Chapel Hill fire marshal.

Tenants need to give landlords 30 days written notice if there is no smoke detector. But the fire chief says you may not want to wait.

"I don't know about you, but if it was my safety, for $10 dollars, I wouldn't be worried about the 30 days notice. I might report my landlord to the local authorities, but I would go down to the store and buy a smoke detector and install it myself," said Jones.

Many people do not feel comfortable going after the landlord about something like a smoke detector.

The simple solution is to call your local fire department if you have a problem or a question. They'll contact the landlord.

Most departments will even come over and install a smoke detector. A quick home visit could save them some hard work later.


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