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Landlord Responsibilities

Rental properties are obviously subject to the same laws governing smoke alarms as any other dwelling, however the one small difference is that the owner or landlord is responsible for providing and maintaining all the required smoke alarms, not the resident. They are also responsible to ensure that their buildings comply with all the requirements of the fire code, in large rental properties this can include emergency lighting and maintaining a sprinkler system. Within Russell the most common issue remains to be smoke alarms. Over the past few years many landlords have expressed their concern over tenants removing batteries from smoke alarms or deliberately disabling a unit and how this can affect them with regards to liability. In the event of a fire, if it were found that there was not the required amount of smoke alarms or if a smoke alarm was not working, charges would definitely be laid. In most cases with rental properties if it is not clear as to who is responsible for the infraction, the strategy is to issue fines or charges to all parties involved. The Fire Marshals Office feels that this way all parties can defend themselves in court if they feel they are not guilty. However the landlord is at much more risk to large fines as compared to the resident. A recent case in Oakville resulted in a landlord being fined $6,000 plus a victim surcharge for multiple fire code violations within one property. So what strategies can you take as a responsible landlord to ensure that your tenants are provided a safe dwelling and that you have met your responsibilities as laid out by the fire code? If your property is equipped with hard wired smoke alarms you are in the best position possible, inspect and test the alarms at least once a year and document the date and results. Having a monitored system is also another option that provides you with excellent protection. Many older properties as are often found in Russell rely on battery operated models, a diligent program is required to ensure that these units are maintained. As a landlord you should personally change the battery and inspect the unit at least once a year, twice would be even better. Some landlords are asking their tenants to sign a document acknowledging that they have performed this maintenance, however we have heard of cases where tenants have refused to sign these documents. If you have an older rental property where installing a hard wired system is not a possibility, another option you have are the 10 year tamperproof units. These alarms come with a ten year lithium ion battery within a sealed body so they can not be disabled. We would highly recommend that you install units equipped with a hush button and make sure your tenant knows about this feature and how it works. That being said; yearly inspection and testing should still be a part of your program. Financial and legal liability is a great concern, but one’s conscience should be the driving force for providing a safe dwelling.





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