Do appraisers require smoke detectors?

I had a great question about smoke detectors last week from a REALTOR friend. Here is her question and I’ll pitch in some thoughts below:

Smoke-Detector-photoQuestion: I have a buyer’s agent telling me we need smoke detectors installed in each bedroom. The condo has two bedrooms right across the hall from each other. The smoke detector is isolated on the ceiling in the hall between the two bedrooms. Will the appraiser require smoke detectors inside each bedroom? Built in 1990.

Answer: Maybe, but maybe not. There are a few things to consider. California code as of now states properties built or remodeled after August 14, 1992 require smoke detectors inside the bedrooms as well as in the hallway and Living Room near the bedrooms. However, if a property has had any remodeling or repairs requiring a permit totaling more than $1000 since August 14, 1992, then smoke detectors in bedrooms are required. Technically properties built before this date (and not remodeled or repaired since) do not require smoke detectors in the bedrooms, though they are still required in the hallway near the bedrooms and the Living Room no matter what. Ultimately the appraiser should at least require smoke detectors where they are required by California law. In some cases though the appraiser does not require the installation of smoke detectors because they are not required by code. However, the lender can still require them regardless of what local code or the appraiser says. In fact, I have a lender client that asks me to take photos of each smoke detector to prove that they are indeed installed (on all appraisals regardless of the age of the property). Lastly, some appraisers may treat smoke detectors in bedrooms as a health and safety issue and simply require them in bedrooms and elsewhere regardless of what local code says. For reference, FHA will require them only so far as they are required by code. In short, you’ll get a mixture of responses depending on the age of the property, what local and state code says and how your appraiser and lender interpret that code. Your “safest” bet is to simply install them.

Footnote: Different jurisdictions can have more stringent regulations, so be sure to know what your state and local county says. There are some new smoke alarm laws hitting the books in 2014 to 2016. The regulations seem to mostly deal with batteries and smoke alarm manufacturing dates being listed on the device.

Bonus: You might also want to read Where to install carbon monoxide detectors in your home.

Question: Any thoughts or questions? Comments are welcome below.

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  1. says

    I understand that most fires start in the garage and code says we need a fire rated door going into the house, hinges that automatically close the door, thicker drywall where the house and garage meet and no holes in those areas of the drywall. I have always been curious why smoke detectors aren’t required in the garage. Too many false alarms?

    • says

      You’re right about that Lynn. Thankfully they are a low-ticket item. In most cases they are probably going to be required, but there are times when they are technically not (in the bedrooms at least).

  2. says

    Ryan – This information really helped me out today. I met an appraiser at one of our listings on 59th street that was built in 1929. It definitely had not been updated after 1992. In any event, he made me go to Home Depot and buy two more smoke detectors and install them in each bedroom even though I had one in the hallway going to the bedroom. He stated he needed to take pictures of all 3 and sign a document stating he saw them in the rooms…..I didn’t battle him on it because I wanted to be in his good graces, however, unless the lender actually required him to do this, it does not sound like I needed to put them in. I guess Ill never know.
    Your blogs are always so insightful so Thank You for doing what you do and educating us all a little more.
    Danny Tarantino
    Keller Williams Realty Elk Grove

    • says

      Thanks Danny. I appreciate you sharing the story, and I’m so glad this was able to help you out. I wonder if in this situation the lender or brokerage was requiring smoke detectors. Most clients seem to stick with what code says, but I do have a good lender client that requires me to take photos of smoke detectors, and I can imagine them requiring despite them technically not being required by local code. The safety aspect has been a huge emphasis for many lenders. Nonetheless, knowing what code actually requires is very powerful to be able to speak truth into situations where there is sometimes misunderstanding. By the way, I’m speaking at your office next week on the 14th I believe. Hope to see you there.

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