Confusion With Smoke Detector Law 2019

Sale and rental transactions are not subject to requirement of new smoke detector law Several media outlets in New York are inaccurately reporting that sales and rentals of real property are subject to the requirements of a new smoke detector law that goes into effect on April 1, 2019. The articles and reports are claiming such things as, “If you’re going to sell your house, you’re not going to be able to sell it with open battery systems. You’re going to have to do it with the 10-year closed battery systems,” which is not an accurate statement.

According to the new law (General Business Law §399-ccc), the distribution, sale, offering for sale or importation of any solely battery operated (replaceable batteries like a 9-volt) is prohibited by law. All smoke detectors distributed, sold, offered to be sold or imported after April 1, 2019 must be hard wired or contain a 10-year non-removable and non-replaceable battery (sometimes referred to as a sealed battery). A copy of the law can be found below.

It should be noted that real estate sales and rentals are not subject to the requirements of the new law, pursuant to the language contained within the law itself. According to section 3, “The provisions of this section shall not apply to solely battery-operated smoke detecting alarm devices powered by a replaceable, removable battery that have been ordered by, or are in the inventory of, owners, managing agents, contractors, wholesalers or retailers on or before the effective date of this section.” (emphasis added).

As can be seen, the language specifically exempts owners and managing agents and as such, would make the requirements of the new law inapplicable to real estate transactions. However, if after April 1, 2019 the smoke detector needs to be replaced prior to or as part of the sale or rental, it must be replaced with a smoke detector that complies with the new law. The exemption only applies to pre-existing solely battery-operated smoke detectors.

Nothing prevents a REALTOR® from recommending that a seller or landlord upgrade their current solely battery-operated smoke detectors to the newer “sealed” or hard-wired smoke detectors if they believe that it will assist in the sale or rental of the property. It should also be noted that the life expectancy of smoke detectors is generally 10 years. After 10 years, the sensors can begin to lose sensitivity, making the smoke detector ineffective and possibly creating a dangerous condition for occupants. Even if the smoke detector still works when the test button is pressed, this confirms that the unit can still sound an alarm, not that the sensors are still working.

General Business Law § 399-ccc. Smoke detecting devices [Effective April 1, 2019]
1. It shall be unlawful for any person or entity to distribute, sell, offer for sale, or import any solely battery-operated smoke detecting alarm device powered by a replaceable, removable battery. All solely battery-operated smoke detecting alarm devices that are distributed, sold, offered for sale, or imported, shall employ a non-removable, non-replaceable battery that powers the device for a minimum of ten years.

2. All product packaging containing a solely battery-operated smoke detecting alarm device shall include the following information:
(a) the manufacturer’s name or registered trademark and the model number of the smoke detecting alarm device; and
(b) that such alarm device is designed to have a minimum battery life of ten years.

3. The provisions of this section shall not apply to solely battery-operated smoke detecting alarm devices powered by a replaceable, removable battery that have been ordered by, or are in the inventory of, owners, managing agents, contractors, wholesalers or retailers on or before the effective date of this section. The provisions of this section shall not apply to smoke detecting alarm devices that receive their power from the electrical system of the building, fire alarm systems with smoke detectors, fire alarm devices that connect to a panel, devices that use a low-power radio frequency wireless communication signal, or such other devices as the state fire administrator shall designate through its regulatory process.