Do apartments need to have smoke detectors?

My building is old (at least pre -978, lead paint warning) and has no smoke detectors. There’s nothing in the lease, the only thing it says about smoke detectors is that “they must be maintained and tested monthly”. Is this a reason to be able to break my lease?

Asked on July 16, 2012 under Real Estate Law, Illinois


M.T.G., Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 8 years ago | Contributor

Illinois has codifed the necessity for these devices in the Smoke Detector Act and the Carbon Monoxide Detector Act.   Per state law, every single-family home must have a smoke detector installed on each floor, including the basement. For other dwelling units, there must be at least one working smoke detector within 15 feet of every bedroom or other room used for sleeping purposes. All smoke detectors must be installed on the ceiling, at least 6 inches from any wall. Smoke detectors may also be installed on the wall, so long as they are between 4-6 inches away from the ceiling. Additionally, if a building contains more than one residential unit, or if the building is a mixed-use building and there is at least one residential unit, then a smoke detector must be installed on the highest ceiling of all stairwells inside the building.

The landlord has the obilgation to put it in and the tenant to maintain it once they occupy the unit.  It may not, though, be a reason to break the lease.  You can request one in writing and bring the landlord to court to get one.  You can also not just walk away from a lease.  A judge has to let you out of it.  Good luck.

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