Smoke detector obligation: who is responsible for installation and maintenance

Smoke detector obligation, Smoke detector, Photo: iStock.com / sturti

Fire departments estimate that around 500 people die in apartment fires in Germany every year. Many of them are surprised by the fire while sleeping. Smoke detectors can save lives, which is why they are already mandatory in 15 of 16 German states. Only in Saxony this applies only to new buildings and conversions, for existing buildings there are no regulations.

Smoke detector obligation affects tenants and landlords

The federal states have not only introduced general smoke detector obligations, but have also specified who is responsible for installing and maintaining the fire detectors. In almost all federal states this is the owner. He can perform this task himself or delegate it, for example, to a janitorial service.

Whether tenants or landlords are ultimately responsible for maintenance and installation is regulated in the relevant state building code and in the application standard for smoke alarms (DIN 14676).

Smoke detectors must be checked regularly

Maintenance means: The smoke alarm must be checked at least once a year to ensure that it is working properly. To do this, first check that the smoke inlets are clear and that the acoustic signal generator is working. Smoke detectors usually have a test button that can be used to trigger an alarm on a trial basis. Maintenance also includes changing batteries and checking that the immediate area is free of obstructions.

Smoke detector obligation in the federal states

Owners, landlords and tenants can find out which obligations apply in which state in the following table:

Federal stateSmoke detector obligation for new buildings sinceCompulsory retrofitting for old buildings untilInstallationMaintenance
Baden-Wurttemberg 11. July 2013 1. January 2015 Owner Tenant
Bavaria 1. January 2013 31. December 2017 Owner Tenant
Berlin 1. January 2017 31. December 2020 Owner Tenant
Brandenburg 1. July 2016 31. December 2020 Owner Owner
Bremen 22. December 2009 31. December 2015 Owners Tenant
Hamburg 7. December 2005 1. January 2011 Owner Owner
Hesse 24. June 2005 31. December 2014 Owner Tenants
Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania 18. April 2005 31. December 2009 Owner Owner
Lower Saxony 1. November 2012 31. December 2015 Owner Tenant
North Rhine-Westphalia 1. April 2013 1. January 2017 Owner Tenants
Rhineland-Palatinate 22. December 2003 12. July 2012 Owners Owner
Saarland 18. February 2004 31. December 2016 Owner Owner
Saxony 1. January 2016 no regulation Owner Tenants
Saxony-Anhalt 21. December 2009 31. December 2015 No specification No specification
Schleswig-Holstein 1. January 2005 31. December 2010 Owner No specification
Thuringia 5. January 2008 31. December 2018 Owner Owner

Landlords should carefully check whether smoke alarms are mandatory in their state or not. And not only for safety reasons: Failure to install a smoke detector is an administrative offense that can be punished with high fines, depending on the federal state – in Lower Saxony, for example, there is a fine of up to 50.000 Euro.

Smoke detector obligation: Where smoke detectors must be installed

Smoke detector obligation, smoke detector, Photo: photophonie / stock.adobe.com

Smoke detectors must be installed in bedrooms and children’s rooms, as well as in hallways that serve as escape routes. Photo: photophonie / stock.adobe.com

According to the law, smoke detectors must be installed in recreation rooms such as bedrooms and children’s rooms, as well as in hallways that serve as escape routes. In some federal states smoke detectors must also be installed in living rooms. Smoke detectors must be mounted in a horizontal position on the ceiling.

Positioning of smoke detectors

Smoke detectors must not be positioned at will if they are to work reliably. The following rules apply to the mounting location:

  • Smoke detectors are usually mounted horizontally on the ceiling of the room.
  • The minimum distance to a wall or furniture should be 50 centimeters or more.
  • Ideally, smoke detectors are mounted centrally in the room.
  • – Multiple smoke detectors are necessary if the room is larger than 60 square meters or has joists that are higher than 20 centimeters.

Even if there are partial walls in a room or if furniture divides a room, two smoke detectors can be useful.

There are some special constellations in which the smoke detectors can or must be installed differently:

  • In hallways up to six square meters, the smoke detector can also be mounted on the wall.
  • In attic rooms with roof pitches of up to 20 degrees, the smoke detectors are mounted in the same way as in rooms with horizontal ceilings.
  • If the roof slope is more than 20 degrees, the smoke detectors must be mounted at a distance of at least half a meter and no more than one meter from the ceiling sprayer.
  • If an attic room does not have a ceiling peak, but a horizontal portion of up to one meter in width, the installation is the same as for an attic room with ceiling peak.
  • If the horizontal portion is more than one meter wide, the mounting is done centrally in this horizontal portion.

How to recognize good smoke detectors

In addition to installing in the right place, landlords should also pay attention to the quality of smoke detectors. In principle, they must have a CE mark and comply with the European DIN standard EN 14604. Tested smoke detectors can be recognized by additional quality seals, for example the VdS or TuV test mark. Smoke detectors are available, for example, in home improvement stores or online:

Ei Electronics Ei650 smoke detector (with 10-year battery, test winner Stiftung Warentest, 1 piece)

Ei Electronics Ei650 smoke detector (with 10-year battery, test winner Stiftung Warentest, 1 piece)

ELRO FS1805 2-pack smoke detector with magnetic adhesive kit, 5-year battery and warranty/DIN EN14604, white, 2 pieces

ELRO FS1805 2-pack smoke detector with magnetic adhesive kit, 5-year battery and warranty/DIN EN14604, white, 2 pieces

X-Sense smoke detector 10 years battery, fire detector Q-label, VDs and TuV certified, smoke alarm with mute and self-test function, SD11, set of 5

X-Sense smoke detector 10 years battery, fire detector Q-Label, VDs and TuV certified, smoke detector with mute and self-test function, SD11, 5-pack set

Property owners should look at both feature set and cost when making a purchase.

The cost of smoke detectors

Although simple smoke detectors that also bear the CE mark are available for around five euros, this says nothing about the quality of the product, only that it may be sold in Germany. One disadvantage of inexpensive devices: the batteries usually have to be replaced after two or three years.

More expensive smoke detectors usually have a permanently installed ten-year battery and can be networked with each other. This has the advantage that when a smoke detector sounds the alarm, it activates the other detectors in the house, which then also sound the alarm. In addition, there are Internet-enabled smoke detectors. In this way, the devices can also be checked remotely for proper functioning. Radio smoke detectors are usually available from about 20 euros, Internet-enabled devices are available from about 50 euros and can cost over 100 euros each.

Wireless smoke detectors and data protection

Internet-enabled wireless smoke detectors could spy on tenants – so one fear. Federal Constitutional Court, however, ruled: tenants must tolerate such devices (Az.: 1 BvR 2921/15).

Rent smoke detectors instead of buying them

Smoke detector, smoke detector obligation, smoke detector rent, Photo: iStock.com / sturti

Meter reading companies also often offer smoke detectors for rent. Photo: iStock.com / sturti

Owners of apartment buildings in particular have to make a not inconsiderable investment if they want to comply with their obligation to install smoke alarms. Alternatively, owners can rent smoke detectors: Instead of a one-time investment, a small rent is due, which is usually only a few euros per year and device. Often such rental offers are associated with service contracts: Internet-enabled devices are then regularly maintained remotely and tested for their function. Also for this the offerers require money. Providers of such rental models are often meter reading companies, but often also chimney sweeps or heating engineers, because they usually have to visit once a year for maintenance and inspection anyway. Service providers are also responsible for replacing defective or outdated devices.

Apportion costs for smoke detectors to tenants

If the landlord has smoke detectors installed in the rented apartment, he can Installation costs in the form of a Modernization rent increase pass on to its tenants. In practice, this means that he can raise the annual rent by eight percent of the costs incurred.
An example: If the installation of smoke detectors in the rented apartment costs 100 euros, this justifies an increase in the annual rent of eight euros, or about 67 cents per month.

The Costs for maintenance of the smoke detector can a landlord in turn as operating costs apportioned to the tenant – if this is agreed in the rental contract is.

Rent smoke alarms – apportion costs: Is that possible?

If the landlord has not purchased the smoke detectors, but only rented them, it has not yet been finally clarified whether the rental costs for the equipment can be passed on to the tenant. There has not yet been a ruling by the highest court on this issue. The Regional Court of Hagen, for example, ruled that the costs for renting are not operating costs because the rent replaces the acquisition costs (Az.Az.: 1 S 198/15). The Magdeburg Regional Court, on the other hand, took the view that the Operating Costs Ordinance was not exhaustive and that the rental costs for the smoke detectors could be included under "Other operating costs" fall (Az.: 1 S 171/11).

FAQ Smoke detector obligation

Who is responsible for installing smoke detectors??

Owners, respectively landlords are obliged to install smoke alarms. Tenants are not obligated.

Who is responsible for the maintenance of smoke detectors??

Each federal state has its own regulations here. In some countries the tenant is responsible, in others the landlord.

Who bears the costs for the installation of smoke detectors??

The cost of installation is borne by the landlord. However, he could pass this on to the tenant as part of a modernization rent increase. However, many landlords refrain from doing so, as the increase would often only amount to a few cents per month.

Who bears the costs for the maintenance of smoke detectors?

It’s different when it’s being maintained than when it’s being built in. Because smoke alarms are compulsory, the landlord can pass on the maintenance costs to the tenant, he says. However, the landlord must expressly declare this to the tenant beforehand. In an appeal, the 31. Civil Chamber of the Regional Court (LG) Munich I on the allocation of "other operating costs" decided (Az. 31 S 6492/20). Accordingly, the maintenance work of the smoke detectors must be listed in the lease agreement before they can be apportioned.

Who bears the costs if the smoke detectors are only rented?

Although there is still no supreme court ruling on this, the majority of the courts of instance are of the opinion that the rent for the smoke detectors must be paid by the landlord. Maintenance costs can, however, be apportioned to the tenant as operating costs if necessary.

How much do smoke detectors cost??

Simple models are available for as little as five euros. But these have the disadvantage that the batteries must be changed every two to three years. Smoke detectors with long-term batteries (ten years), radio smoke detectors, networked smoke detectors or those that can also measure humidity and temperature are more expensive. Depending on the range of functions, they often cost between ten and sometimes more than 100 euros.

Tenants must tolerate the installation of smoke detectors?

The installation of smoke alarms is a modernization measure according to § 559 BGB and must be tolerated by the tenant.

What if the tenant himself installs smoke detectors?

The Federal Court of Justice ruled that a tenant must tolerate the installation of smoke alarms by the landlord even if he has already installed smoke alarms himself (Az.: VIII ZR 290/14).

Is the landlord obliged to install smoke detectors?

Except for the state of Saxony, where there are no regulations for existing buildings, owners in all other states are obliged to install smoke alarms.

In which rooms must be installed smoke alarms?

Smoke detectors must be installed in bedrooms, in hallways that serve as escape routes and in some countries also in living rooms.

How many smoke detectors must be installed?

In rooms up to 60 square meters, one smoke detector is usually sufficient, unless the room has partial walls, for example.

What happens when a smoke alarm sounds a false alarm??

Depending on the state, either the landlord or the tenant is responsible for maintaining and testing smoke detectors. The respective obligated party must check the smoke alarm in the event of a false alarm. If the smoke detector has to be replaced, the landlord bears the costs.

Is the insurance company liable in the event of damage if no smoke detectors were installed despite the obligation to install smoke detectors??

There are no legal regulations on this. It is possible, however, that the insurance company will try to reduce the payment with the argument that the damage would have been less if the fire had been discovered earlier by smoke detectors.

Your opinion counts

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76 comments

IWI on the 18th.01.2022 14:27

"What happens when a smoke detector sounds a false alarm?

Depending on the federal state, either the landlord or the tenant is responsible for maintaining and testing the smoke alarms. The respective obligated party must test the smoke alarm in the event of a false alarm. If this must be replaced, the landlord bears the costs."

This is exactly what happened to me. The manufacturing company Hekatron has – until now – despite 10 – Hahres guarantee and warranty since approx. 1.5 years deaf and hopes probably also with other damaged ones that it escapes its warranty obligations opposite its customers and consumers thereby.

Here the legislator has slept massively. The technical peculiarities – in case of non – functioning of the smoke alarm – neither an owner, nor landlord, nor a tenant can know all of them. In this case, this can only be done by the manufacturer – in this case Hekatron. And charges for each new smoke detector replaced ca. 12,50 € in addition to the 36,- € installed as (bad) new goods. In addition: Bad (because not functioning) commodity is always too expensive !

How is the o.a. Manufacturer company bzgl. Warranty and guarantee on the part of the stalled customer thus to come topically with ?

Because of the o.a. Failure of the legislator is here good advice is again very much in demand !

Dieter Pochert on 10.12.2021 21:18

I have an eat-in kitchen with an adjoining hallway without a door. Do I then have to install a smoke detector, since the frying fumes also pulls in hallway?

immowelt editorial office on 16.12.2021 11:02

Hello Dieter Pochert,

By law, smoke detectors must be installed in common rooms such as bedrooms and children’s rooms, as well as in corridors that serve as escape routes. Whether you have to install a smoke detector depends on whether the hallway is used as an escape route.

Please understand that we can not or may not provide legally valid advice.

Steph on 03.12.2021 21:35

Our landlady has once again in the service charge for the maintenance of the smoke detectors € 97 set. We live in a row house with 95 sqm and have exactly 4 smoke detectors installed. The maintenance costs still include travel costs and real estate fees. Is that right?

immowelt editorial office on 08.12.2021 08:25

In principle, it is possible to pass on smoke detector maintenance to the tenant as an operating cost. However, this must be agreed in the rental contract. Since smoke detector maintenance falls under other operating costs, they must be explicitly mentioned in the lease to be apportionable to the tenant. If this is the case, operating costs must also comply with the principle of economic efficiency. If you have doubts about the correctness of the service charge statement, you can file an objection. It may be advisable to have the settlement checked by an expert beforehand.

Please understand that we cannot and may not provide legal advice. In case of doubt, you should contact a specialist lawyer or a tenants’ association.

the immowelt editorial team

Fanny.e at 12.09.2021 23:42

Hello. Today I pointed out to my landlady that in our rented house is not a single smoke detector. We live in BaWu.

Hi, since it is "only is a residential unit, we do not need to make purely and have no documentation about it (you have to do if several apartments in a house are) I’ll see if I still have some, then you can get and install them. &

Is that correct? Thanks for your answer

immowelt editorial office On 15.09.2021 16:05

we can see that from the law of the state of Baden-Wuerttemberg from 16. July 2013 so do not take. The rule is: the landlord/owner is responsible for the installation, the maintenance (changing the batteries etc) is the responsibility of the landlord/owner.) of the tenants.

Vespenstich on 30.08.2021 11:54

Live in Hesse + have lived in a rented apartment for 9 years. The apartment is located in an apartment building u. each apartment has a different owner.

When I moved in, smoke detectors were already installed in my apartment and I took care of the maintenance because the landlord was not interested.

About. 4 years ago, the owners’ association decided that every apartment should have smoke detectors that are maintained by a company. The tenants were neither asked nor informed about this in advance.

Do I have to pay these maintenance costs then? In the rental agreement position "smoke detector" is explicitly not listed.

Many thanks.

immowelt editorial office on 31.08.2021 16:30

a landlord can allocate the costs for the maintenance of the smoke detector as operating costs to the tenant – however, this must be agreed in the lease agreement. Otherwise, the tenant is basically responsible for the maintenance of smoke detectors in Hesse.

the immowelt editorial office

Vera R. on 28.06.2021 15:31

Our house management says that since 01.12.2020 the responsibility for the smoke detectors now lies fully with the administration and has had new radio smoke detectors installed and also concluded a maintenance contract straight away – without consultation with the owners. We are 6 parties in the WEG.

What exactly is this law called and where can you read about it?

immowelt editorial team on 28.06.2021 17:06

in some federal states the deadlines for installation of smoke detectors ended on 31.12.2020. An owners’ association can decide on the installation and maintenance of smoke detectors for all apartments in a house. This applies even if owners of individual apartments have already installed smoke detectors. This was the decision of the Federal Court of Justice (BGH): (Az. V ZR 273/17).

the immowelt editorial team

Kalu on 17.05.2021 16:36

I have the following statement on maintenance; can the statement, especially the recommendation given at the end be confirmed by the reaction?

"All bedrooms and children’s rooms, as well as the corridors of a rented apartment that serve as escape routes for leaving living quarters, must be equipped with smoke alarms. This is the responsibility of the owners of the rented apartments, i.e. you as the landlord. As a landlord you have to buy and install the smoke alarms.

On the other hand, your tenant must carry out the annual inspection of the smoke alarms, unless you as a landlord have not fulfilled this obligation, according to BauO NRW, by 31.03.2013 took over itself. If the functional and visual inspection is carried out by your tenant, then as a landlord you should annually take a corresponding signed protocol from your tenant for your records.

Note: As a landlord, you are liable for possible damage in the event of poorly maintained smoke detectors. As the landlord, you are responsible for the safety of your rented premises. This means that if a poorly maintained smoke detector fails, you as the landlord are liable for the damage caused.

Therefore, it is recommended that you hire a specialist company to check the functionality of the smoke alarms once a year. As a landlord, you can pass on the costs incurred for this to your tenant via the annual operating costs statement. For this, however, you must have made a corresponding agreement in your rental contract.

"In this regard, all bedrooms and children’s rooms, as well as the corridors of a rented apartment, which serve as escape routes to leave living rooms, must be equipped with smoke alarms. This is the responsibility of the owners of the rented apartments, i.e. you as the landlord. As a landlord, you must buy and install the smoke alarms.

On the other hand, your tenant must carry out the annual inspection of the smoke alarms, unless you as a landlord have this obligation, according to BauO NRW, until 31.03.2013 taken over by yourself. If the functional and visual inspection is carried out by your tenant, then you as the landlord should annually take a corresponding signed protocol from your tenant for your records.

Note: As a landlord, you are liable for possible damage in the event of poorly maintained smoke detectors. As the landlord, you yourself are responsible for the safety of your rented premises. This means that if a poorly maintained smoke detector fails, you as the landlord are liable for the damage caused.

Therefore, it is recommended that you hire a specialist company to check the functionality of the smoke alarms once a year. As a landlord, you can pass on these costs to your tenant in the annual utility bill. For this, however, you must have an agreement in your lease to do so.

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