Q. I bought a condominium built in 1985 in L.A. County and will be renting it. Do I need to have my contractors hard wire the smoke detectors, or can I use battery-operated smoke detectors?


A. This is a great question, and one that may have different answers depending on the municipality in which the condo is located. First, for some background information on California’s laws and regulations regarding smoke detectors, please read our October 7, 2010 column “California Smoke Detector Laws.”

Your residence, a condominium, is included in the California Health and Safety Code’s definition of “dwelling units intended for human occupancy”, among other types of buildings. Section 13113.7 of the California Health and Safety Code addresses the requirements for this type of dwelling and states that “unless prohibited by local rules, regulations, or ordinances, a battery-operated smoke detector, which otherwise meets the standards adopted pursuant to Section 13114 for smoke detectors, satisfies the requirements of this section.”

However, if your condo has had any construction work costing more than $1,000 and for which a permit was required, your smoke detectors may need to be hard-wired with a battery backup, as required by the California Building Code. To conduct more research, consult the California Building Code, Chapter 9: Fire Protection Systems, Section 907.2.11.4. The California Building Code is not available for free online, but you can find it in print at your local county public law library. To find the law library nearest you, go to www.publiclawlibrary.org.

In addition to California’s laws and regulations, you’ll want to consult both your county and municipal codes that might impose more specific requirements or guidelines. For example, the Los Angeles Municipal Code Section 91.8603 requires that smoke detectors in two-family dwellings, condominiums, and apartments be hard-wired and also equipped with a battery backup, while single-family residences require only battery-operated smoke detectors. This code applies to buildings within the city limits of Los Angeles, so if your condo is located elsewhere please consult the appropriate city code. To research local rules or ordinances, try contacting the local department of building and safety or the Office of the Clerk. You can visit  a California County Public Law Library for print and online access to the state code and regulations; they are also available online at www.leginfo.ca.gov/ and www.calregs.com.

Also, remember that on January 1, 2013, carbon monoxide detectors are required in all dwelling units, including condominiums. This law took effect for single-family residences in 2011 and will apply to all other dwellings beginning in 2013. You can read the bill, SB-183, and find answers to commonly-asked questions provided by the California State Fire Marshal.

Do you have a question for the County Law Librarian? Just email sacpress@saclaw.org. If your question is selected your answer will appear in next Thursday’s column. Even if your question isn’t selected, though, I will still respond within two weeks.

Coral Henning, Director
 @coralh & @saclawlibrarian