In order to improve our community’s fire risk, Roanoke City Council adopted an ordinance on November 21, 2022 to require the installation of smoke alarms in rental properties. While the Virginia Landlord Tenant Act already requires landlords to provide smoke alarms in rental properties, this ordinance provides an enforcement mechanism in instances where a building owner fails to provide these critical lifesaving devices.
According to a 2021 report by the National Fire Protection Association, three out of five home fire deaths occurred in properties where no smoke alarms were present or where the smoke alarms failed to operate. In addition, the death rate per 1,000 home structure fires is 55% lower in homes with working smoke alarms compared to homes without.
The Fire Marshal’s Office and Code Enforcement will share enforcement of the regulation, with the Fire Marshal’s Office leading any potential criminal enforcement actions. The ordinance went into effect immediately. Initial efforts in first 90 days after enactment will be focused on education. While this offense is classified as a Class 1 Misdemeanor, the City’s priority is working collaboratively with landlords and property owners to ensure that residents are adequately protected.