Yes, it is a legal requirement for landlords to install and maintain functioning smoke detectors in all rental properties, to ensure your tenants are living in a safe environment.
Laws do vary among the states, but you can assume that maintaining a working smoke and carbon monoxide detector is a minimum requirement. Local laws will deal with specific regulations, such as the installation of smoke detectors within 15 feet of every bedroom and the required frequency of testing the alarms.
Beyond being a legal requirement, smoke detectors offer significant benefits. Along with protecting your tenants, they protect your property from smoke and fire damage. They can be triggered by other issues too, such as excessive humidity, which can also cause damage to your property if not fixed as soon as possible.
Smoke alarms are something that you’ll need to invest in periodically, since they are only guaranteed for a maximum service life of 10 years. With that in mind, we’ll share our picks for the top smoke detectors for apartments, to provide the best possible protection for your tenants and property.
You’ll also find a buyer’s guide for what features to look for when choosing a smoke detector.
Summary Table – Best Smoke Detectors
If you want to jump directly to our top recommended smoke detectors for apartments, check out the table below for quick links and the most important features.
|First Alert Smoke Detector
|4.7 stars (27,950 ratings)
|Google Nest Protect Smoke Alarm
|4.6 stars (12,858 ratings)
|First Alert Z Wave Smoke Detector
|4.6 stars (8,969 ratings)
|Kidde Battery Powered Smoke Detector
|4.6 stars (5.978 ratings)
|X-Sense Combination Smoke Carbon Monoxide Alarm
|4.6 stars (4,799 ratings)
5 Best Smoke Detectors For Apartments
Based on real user feedback and an assessment of the most important features for smoke detectors, below are our picks for the five best smoke detectors for apartments. They balance price, features, and quality.
The affordability and reliability of this model has made it a market leader. Available for less than $15 per unit, it’s ideal if you’re fitting out a number of apartments or rental homes.
- Hardwired with battery backup
- Ionization sensor
- 85-decibel alarm
- Can network with other First Alert detectors
This is a wired model that is compatible with standard 120 volt AC power and uses a 9V battery backup. This powers an ionization detector that will trigger an 85-decibel alarm if danger is detected.
The alarms are easy to install with universal mounting brackets, and easy to use, with a single button to test and silence the alarm. You can network it with other First Alert detectors to provide more comprehensive protection.
These alarms are rigorously tested, which is why First Alert has maintained a name as the most trusted residential smoke detector provider since 1958.
We would have liked to see an integrated carbon monoxide detector, but first alert sells affordable carbon monoxide detectors too.
If you’re looking for a smart model combining smoke alarm and carbon monoxide detector, then it should be no surprise that the best smart model is currently being produced by Google. That said, it’s quite expensive at around $120, but you get a lot of features.
- Combined smoke and carbon monoxide detector
- Split ionization and photoelectric sensors
- Alerts to your phone
- Smart assistant alert
First and foremost,this is a good detector that uses both ionization and photoelectric sensors to detect fires, and also has an integrated carbon monoxide sensor. But that’s only the start of what this unit can do.
You can control the sensor with an app. That might sound like unnecessary functionality, but it means that rather than hearing annoying beeps when batteries are low, you’ll receive a message. And if there is a fire alert, you can get alerted wherever you are.
At home, if you have a smart speaker, the Google Nest Protect alarm can speak up and let you know what’s going on. It can provide more information than a simple beep, telling you exactly what has been detected, where, and how serious it is right now.
The detector also has an integrated light, which is off by default, but you can program it to act as a sensor light during certain hours and to light your way when evacuating in the dark.
The main drawback with this model is that it’s pricey. But if you’re offering homes with other smart features, this can be a great addition.
If you’re looking for a smoke detector and carbon monoxide detector in one, First Alert has affordable models that work well in rental homes. You can cover both of your security requirements for less than $35 per unit.
- Combined smoke and carbon monoxide detector
- Photoelectric sensor with 85-decibel alarm
- App integration
- Integrate multiple alarms with base station
This is a smart model alarm that can be integrated with other compatible smoke alarms if you have a compatible base station such as a Ring Alarm Base, Samsung SmartThings, or Nexia Home Intelligence.
The smoke detector uses a photoelectric sensor and has a separate carbon monoxide sensor too. These will sound an 85-decibel alarm, but will also send alerts to your smartphone so you know what’s happening at all times.
If you’re looking for a smart model, this is probably the most affordable option on the market, though you do need to invest in other pieces to make the system work.
Kiddle is another brand that offers a cost-effective and reliable smoke detector model that’s ideal when you need multiple devices for apartments and rental homes. Each is available for less than $10.
- Ionization sensor smoke detector
- Battery powered, 9V
You don’t get a lot of additional features with such an affordable device, but you still get everything you need. The ionization sensor is reliable, as is the 9V battery power. Each detector comes with an easy-to-use mounting bracket. An 85-decibel alarm alerts the household when danger is detected.
X-Sense also offers an affordable combined smoke and carbon monoxide detector for under $40. It comes with an integrated LCD digital display to make it easy to know exactly what’s going on.
- Combination smoke and carbon monoxide detector
- 10-year lithium battery
- LCD digital display
The standout feature of this alarm is that it comes with a lithium battery, which should not run out of juice for the full 10-year life of the detector. This can save you money and headaches in the long run.
The digital display means that you can also use the alarm as a monitor to keep an eye on carbon monoxide levels in general. It also displays the battery and working status of the device, to put tenants’ minds at ease.
Despite being quite sophisticated, this option doesn’t have many of the smart features of more expensive devices. But the simplicity is also one of the reasons that it’s great for rentals.
Smoke Detector Buying Guide
Beyond affordability, there are several features to consider when choosing the best smoke detectors to install in apartments and other small rental properties.
Smoke detectors require a power source to function, and you’ll find options on the market that use batteries and others that can be hardwired into the home’s electrical system There are even some options that allow for both.
Hardwired smoke detectors have the benefit that their batteries need changing less often, but they do usually have a battery backup in case something goes wrong with the mains power.
Most battery-operated detectors require either two AA batteries or one 9V, but there are more sophisticated models that may require more. There are a limited number of lithium battery options on the market.
Standard battery-operated detectors need their batteries changed around every six months, and it should be clearly stated in your lease agreement whether this responsibility lies with the landlord or the tenant. If you choose a long-life lithium battery model, you may never need to change the battery before it is time to replace the detector.
Smoke alarms use sensors to detect certain particles in their air to ascertain whether a fire or another dangerous situation could be occurring. Detectors will use either photoelectric or ionization sensors. While both are effective, ionization sensors respond more quickly to fast-burning fires, while photoelectric sensors are more sensitive to smoldering fires.
Since most properties will need multiple detectors, it is a good idea to use both in different areas of the home to maximize how quickly fires are likely to be detected.
Many states will require that you install not only smoke detectors but also carbon monoxide detectors. Even if this is not a legal requirement, it’s still a good decision for the protection of your tenants.
Many smoke detectors also work as carbon monoxide detectors, with separate sensors to detect carbon monoxide. The detectors will have different alarms to indicate what they’re sensing.
Fire detectors are increasingly “smart devices” that can integrate with smart home systems controlled by Amazon’s Alexa or Google Home. In addition to letting you check on your detector using voice command, this can allow you to connect the various smoke detectors, so if one sounds the alarm, they can all be triggered to alarm, ensuring that it’s heard throughout the home.
Fire Alarms For Rental Properties FAQs
Where is the best place to put a smoke detector in an apartment?
Smoke rises, so smoke alarms should be placed on ceilings or high up on walls no less than 12 inches from the ceiling. They should also be placed in areas away from air ducts and significant air flow so that drafts do not prevent evidence of smoke reaching the alarm’s sensors.
Do I really need a smoke detector in every bedroom?
Many states legally require smoke detectors in every bedroom, or within a certain distance from every bedroom. People are often at the greatest risk when sleeping. This ensures both detection of fire and that the alarm is likely to be heard by everyone in the household.
Protect Your Property
Working smoke alarms aren’t just a legal requirement for all rental properties, they are vital tools for keeping your tenants and your property safe.
Fire alarms don’t need to be a big investment. If you purchase good quality alarms, you should only have to replace them every 10 years with proper maintenance and upkeep.
Depending on the features you’re looking for, our top five recommended smoke detectors should work well in apartments and small rental properties.
Read our full guide to smoke alarm regulations for rental properties here.