Friday, June 13, 2014
The Texas Property Code requires smoke detectors in all apartments and other rental units. The Austin Tenant's Council provides the details of Texas law for the number of detectors required and how tenants can get them installed if they are missing, repaired, or replaced.
At least one smoke detector is required outside of every bedroom. If the bedrooms are all on the same hallway, it is okay to put just one smoke detector in the hallway so it is still in the immediate area of the bedrooms. If one or more bedrooms are on a level above the living and cooking area, the smoke detector for those bedrooms has to be put in the center of the ceiling right above the top of the stairwell. Efficiency units are required to have a single smoke detector.
If smoke detectors are missing when a tenant moves in, they can request the landlord install them, preferably in writing.
It is the landlords responsibility to inspect and test all the smoke detectors when the tenant moves in and whenever the tenant requests an inspection or reports a malfunction. Such a request or report should also be put in writing, even if not required by the lease. However, if the smoke detector is damaged by the tenant or his guests, the landlord doesn't have to repair or replace the unit unless the tenant gives them the money for the repair or replacement first.
The Tenant can take the landlord to court and/or terminate the lease and move out if the landlord won't put in a smoke detector, or inspect or repair one, within a week of getting a written request.
A tenant can be held responsible for any damages that result from a non-working smoke detector if a tenant doesn't replace the battery in a smoke detector, or intentionally disconnects or damages a smoke detector.
The tenant has to be current on rent before requesting installation, testing or repair of a smoke detector; if either party files suit in court just to "harass the other party", they can be fined a civil penalty of one month's rent plus $100, plus lawyer's fees and court costs; the tenant is unable to give up the right to a smoke detector, even in the lease; it is the tenant's job to replace batteries if the smoke detector was working when they moved in; and finally, if required by a hearing-impaired resident, the tenant can request a smoke detector that is capable of alerting a hearing-impaired person in the bedrooms it serves.