Tenant rights: Who's responsible for rental property smoke detectors?

CLEVELAND, OH (WOIO) - Three people are dead following two separate overnight fires in Cleveland. Investigators are still working to figure out how the fires started, but one thing they do know is that there were no working smoke detectors in the homes.

Christopher Peck, 30, and Linda Peck, 55, died in a fire on the 3400 block of East 49th just after midnight.

A few hours later, shortly before 6 a.m., firefighters were called to the 2300 block of Searsdale Avenue. A mother and one of her children were able to jump from the second floor and suffer minor injuries, a second child, who was rescued by firefighters from the third floor, eventually died at a nearby hospital.

Too often, people either don't install them or don't change the batteries. Officials recommend checking smoke alarm batteries at least twice a year.

"Smoke detectors will save your life. There is significant data that states that early action from a smoke detector will notify the occupants of that structure that there's even a glint of smoke in the area and then they can get up and investigate and exit the structure," said Parma Fire Department Public Information Officer T.J. Martin.

Cleveland 19 News is getting answers on what responsibilities renters have when it comes to checking smoke detectors.

"State law requires that any building over 75 ft. in height, smoke detectors are mandatory. Smoke detectors should be mandatory throughout the country, according to the National Fire Protection Association, however it may be put on the renters individually, and not the landlord," Martin said.

He said most buildings must have working smoke detectors and sprinklers when they're built.

"We've come a long way from the old days of people renting. It's new building materials, it's new electrical requirements that people are more responsible," Martin said.

However, over time, batteries die and smoke detectors break. A renter shouldn't assume their landlord will fix it, unless it's covered in their contract.

Martin also said it's smart to keep an extinguisher near the kitchen, which is where most fires begin.

"Obviously a small fire extinguisher is going to be no substitute to the fire department, however it could buy a few extra minutes to get the kids and your family out of the house," he said.

Officials recommend putting smoke alarms on every level of a home (including the basement), at the very least. You can request a smoke detector from the Red Cross.

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