Roanoke City Council: Landlords must install smoke alarms in rental properties

If landlords do not comply, they can be charged with a class one misdemeanor

ROANOKE, Va. – Three out of five house fire-related deaths happen inside homes that do not have a smoke detector, according to a report by the National Fire Protection Association.

Roanoke city leaders are working to change that statistic with a new ordinance.

Landlords will now be required to install smoke alarms in rental properties to comply with the ordinance passed at Monday night’s meeting.

“This is truly about safety, public safety for those residents who reside in our city,” said Roanoke City Attorney, Tim Spencer.

The Virginia Landlord Tenant Act already requires landlords to have smoke alarms in rental properties, but this ordinance will allow enforcement by the Roanoke City’s Code Enforcement and Fire Marshal’s Office.

“We are always focused on education and outreach before we even worry about enforcement. My hope is that we never even have to use this but it’s a tool in the toolbox if we get a landlord that says, ‘I’m not doing it,’ now we have a way to motivate somebody to come into compliance for something that we believe is a very simple safety measure,” said Roanoke’s Deputy Fire Chief, David Guynn.

Landlords will have 90 days from the ordinance’s adoption, Monday, Nov. 21, to start complying.

City leaders and fire officials said this 90-day period will be about education.

“Without that smoke alarm giving you early detection and early warning, you won’t even wake up to have a chance to escape. So that’s what we want to really communicate with this ordinance is that really and truly it’s a difference between life and death,” said Guynn.

Landlords can face a class one misdemeanor for each day they do not comply with the ordinance.

City leaders echo they’re hoping for compliance and not punishment.

About the Author:

Sydney joined the WSLS 10 News team in June 2021.