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FIR-6.10 - Abating Smoke Detector/Alarm Violations

ABATING SMOKE DETECOR/ALARM VIOLATIONS
Administrative Rule Adopted by Portland Fire & Rescue Pursuant to Rule-Making Authority
ARB-FIR-6.10

PURPOSE:
To provide guidelines for abating smoke detector/alarm violations.

SCOPE:
This policy applies to all rental dwelling units within all areas in which Portland Fire & Rescue has fire prevention authority.

BACKGROUND:
Due to the important life-saving aspects of smoke detectors and alarms this office chooses to actively pursue full operational readiness of smoke alarms and detectors.

REFERENCE:
ORS 479.270, ORS 479.275, ORS 479.300, ORS 479.990 (6). FMO Code Enforcement Policy F-7. PCC Title 29.

DEFINITIONS:
Smoke detector: a detection device that is part of an alarm system.
Smoke alarm: a stand-alone detection/alarm unit.
Residential rental property (AKA ‘rental dwelling unit’): dwelling units which are not occupied as the principal residence of the owner.

PROCEDURES:
The owner of any rental dwelling unit, or the owner’s authorized agent, shall be responsible for supplying, installing and maintaining the required smoke detector or alarm and shall provide a written notice containing instructions for testing of the device. The notice shall be given to the tenant at the time the tenant first takes possession of the premises.
(1) The duty of the owner or authorized agent to maintain the required smoke detector or alarm, including providing working batteries, arises only:
(a) Prior to the beginning of every new tenancy when the tenant first takes possession of the premises; and
(b) During the tenancy upon written notice from the tenant or the Fire Marshal of any deficiency, not including replacing dead batteries, as provided in ORS 479.275:
"It shall be the responsibility of the tenant of any rental dwelling unit to perform such tests on the smoke [detectors] alarms located in a part of the dwelling unit that the tenant is entitled to occupy to the exclusion of others as are recommended by the manufacturer’s instructions and immediately notify, in writing, the owner or authorized agent of any deficiencies. Testing intervals shall not exceed six months. It shall be the responsibility of the tenant during tenancy to replace any dead batteries, as needed.
No person shall remove or tamper with a properly functioning smoke detector or smoke alarm installed in conformance with ORS 470.250 to 479.300 [and 479.990 (6)]. This prohibition includes removal of working batteries. Violation of any provision of ORS 479.255, 479.260, 479.297, or 479.300 or section 4, chapter 647, Oregon Laws 1997, is punishable by a civil penalty imposed by the Fire Marshal in an amount not to exceed $250."
The following represent the situations this office is most likely to encounter. The subsequent solutions apply the above information and are the recommended procedure to be used in abating violations until further notice.
 
Situation 1. The owner or the owner’s authorized agent has not installed a properly operating smoke detector or alarm within 10 days after receiving written notice from a tenant of the deficiency, and the tenant has forwarded a complaint to this office.
Solution: Upon receipt of a complaint filed by the tenant, the inspector shall investigate the alleged violation of ORS 479.250 to 479.300. If the inspector finds that the landlord has failed to install a properly operating smoke detector or alarm in the unit under investigation within 10 days after written notice from the tenant of the deficiency, the inspector shall cause the owner or authorized agent to abate the violation within 24 hours following notification by this office. Such notification shall be written on form 300.11 and given directly to the owner or agent. In the case where the owner or agent is not present, the owner or agent shall be notified by telephone and the 300.11 shall be mailed to the owner or agent. If there is reason to believe that more than one detector is malfunctioning or missing, the inspector shall also request in writing via form 300.11 that the owner or agent provide written documentation within 30 days that all smoke detectors throughout the building are installed and operational as per ORS 479.250 to ORS 479.300. If the owner refuses or fails to abate the violation as required, the inspector shall follow the normal abatement process. Each violation above shall be considered separate and distinct for abatement purposes.
Situation 2. Upon physical inspection of the building containing the dwelling unit, the inspector discovers that the smoke detector or alarm in an inhabited dwelling is missing or inoperable (excluding dead or missing batteries).
Solution: The inspector shall present to the owner or authorized agent written notice of the deficiency and specify a period of not less than 10 days for compliance. If there is reason to believe that more than one detector is malfunctioning or missing, the inspector shall also request in writing via form 300.11 that the owner or agent provide written documentation within 30 days that all smoke detectors throughout the building are installed and operational as per ORS 479.250 to ORS 479.300. If the owner refuses or fails to abate the violations as required, the inspector shall follow the normal abatement process. Each violation above shall be considered separate and distinct for abatement purposes. (Note: This same procedure shall be followed when a tenant wants to remain anonymous in their complaint. The inspector shall perform an "SC" special inspection and give the owner no less than 10 days written notification of the violation).
Situation 3. Upon physical inspection of the building containing the dwelling unit the inspector discovers that the tenant has removed the battery rendering the smoke detector or alarm inoperable. (This would constitute tampering under ORS 479.300).
Solution: The inspector shall issue a "Notice of Violation" directing the tenant to replace the missing battery within 24 hours. If tenant fails to abate the violation within the required period, the inspector shall notify their Senior Inspector. The Senior Inspector shall notify the Fire Marshal who may initiate the procedure to impose a civil penalty not to exceed $250 as provided in ORS 183.090.
Situation 4. Upon physical inspection of the building containing the dwelling unit the inspector discovers that the tenant has failed to test the smoke detector or alarm as required and replace any dead batteries.
Solution: The inspector shall issue a "Notice of Violation" directing the tenant to perform the required smoke detector test. The tenant shall have no less than 10 days to abate this violation. If the battery is dead or missing, the tenant shall replace it or be subject to a civil penalty (as described in Situation 3). If the detector is defective, the tenant shall notify the owner in writing as previously described. The owner must abate the violation as previously described.
Situation 5. This office receives a "Company Referral" indicating a smoke detector or alarm violation.
Solution: The inspector shall perform an "SC" Special Inspection and apply the appropriate solution as described above in Situations 2-4.
NOTE: This policy is not intended to inhibit any member of this Bureau from providing a smoke alarm in a situation in which they feel it is appropriate to do so.
 

HISTORY
 
Filed for inclusion in PPD June 13, 2003.
Originally adopted by Fire Marshal as Fire Prevention Division Policy Manual Document F-10, effective April 26, 2000.