Archive for category Smoke Detectors

Milwaukee’s Amended Smoke Alarm Ordinance To Take Effect June 1, 2013.

On November 8, 2012, Milwaukee’s Common Council passed a revised smoke alarm ordinance by a vote of 13 to 2.

Effective June 1, 2013, all battery-operated smoke alarm must be powered by 10-year or more non-removable (sealed) batteries.  Compliance with this requirement must be met when replacing any current battery operated smoke alarm after June 1st next year or by October 1, 2017 — whichever is sooner.  The AASEW was successful in getting the effective date of the revised ordinance delayed so as to allow landlords some  additional time to use up their current supply of non-sealed smoke alarms.

The remainder of the ordinance which requires a “hush button” be present on the smoke alarm if it is located within 20 feet of  the kitchen and the requirement of annual testing and recording of when the testing occurred and by whom, remained unchanged.


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New Milwaukee Smoke Alarm Ordinance To Require Sealed Lithium Battery Units In Residential Rental Housing

The City of Milwaukee has introduced a change to the residential smoke alarm ordinance.  If passed, the revised ordinance will require the use of sealed smoke alarm units with 10 year lithium batteries in all city residential rental housing.  The proposed ordinance would require landlords to install the sealed unit when replacing a current removable-battery unit or by October 1, 2022, whichever occurs sooner.

In is unknown what the impetus behind the revised ordinance was but most likely it was the fact that tenants still continue to remove the battery from their smoke detectors to use for other things . . . like their kids toys.  While the “hush button” requirement a few years ago partially alleviated tenants removing the battery when cooking, it still did not prevent tenants from removing the battery to power little Junior’s Talking Elmo.

The cost of the sealed unit will run approximately $13 more per unit than current smoke alarms.  Those landlords in an effort to reduce costs who decided to buy smoke alarms in bulk now find themselves facing a huge loss as they will have difficulty using up their stockpile before the new ordinance requires replacement with the new sealed units.

The current ordinance states:

214-23. Battery-Operated Smoke Alarms. 
Every battery-operated smoke alarm shall be 
tested by the owner not less than once every 
calendar year. The owner shall provide a copy of 
test results to the commissioner or the 
commissioner=s designee upon request. Test 
results shall include the date on which testing was 
performed and the name, telephone number and 
property relationship of the person who performed 
the test. Testing shall be performed in accordance 
with the manufacturer=s specifications for testing. 
By September 21, 2005, every owner shall take 
the actions necessary to ensure that any smoke 
alarm located within 20 feet of the primary cooking 
appliance within the unit has a silencing switch 
(hush button).

The proposed revised ordinance is below:

Part 1. Section 214-23 of the code is repealed and recreated to read:

214-23. Battery-Operated Smoke Alarms. 1. TYPE. Every battery-operated smoke alarm shall be powered by 10-year or more non-removable batteries. Compliance with this requirement shall be met when replacing an existing battery-operated unit according to the manufacturer’s recommended replacement date or by October 1, 2022, whichever is sooner.

2. SILENCING SWITCH. Any smoke alarm located within 20 feet of the primary cooking appliance within the unit shall have a silencing switch.

3. TESTING. Every battery-operated smoke alarm shall be tested by the owner not less than once every calendar year. The owner shall provide a copy of test results to the commissioner or the commissioner’s designee upon request. Test results shall include the date on which testing was performed and the name, telephone number and property relationship of the person who performed the test. Testing shall be performed in accordance with the manufacturer’s specifications for testing.

Part 2. Section 214-27-3 of the code is amended to read:

214-27. Smoke Detectors and Smoke Alarms for Residential Dwellings Built Prior to January 1, 1983. 3. TYPE. Smoke detectors and alarms required under this section shall be single station devices, either battery operated >>as provided in s. 214-23<<, plug-in or directed wired A/C units unless otherwise required by the code.


UPDATE 10/9/12 — The hearing was held earlier today and it was referred to ZND committee for a hearing in November sometime.  The ordinance was amended to require that the sealed lithium battery units go into effect in 2017 (5 years) rather than 2022 (10 years).  A request was made by AASEW counsel Heiner Giese to delay the effective date of the ordinance to June 1, 2013 so that landlords could use up their current supply of non-sealed battery units – one alderman supported this request.  Several alderman expressed concern that this proposed modification to the current ordinance would be expensive for homeowners who do not have to deal with tenants that remove the batteries from smoke alarm units

– Thank you to Heiner for the updated information.

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You Will Not Want To Miss AASEW’s Fourth Annual Landlord Boot Camp on Saturday Feb. 25th

Landlording can be pretty complex, with a seemingly never ending myriad of paperwork, rules, landlord-tenant laws and simple mistakes that can cost you thousands of dollars.

The Apartment Association of Southeastern Wisconsin’s Fourth Annual Landlord Boot Camp can help you navigate these treacherous waters and teach you how to run your properties with greater profit and less hassles.

I have given similar landlord-tenant law seminars to fellow attorneys, landlords, and property manager organizations throughout the state for other state-wide semianr companies that charge attendees $300-$400.  This is your opportunity to learn all of the same information at a huge discount through the Apartment Association.


Who:   Taught by Attorney Tristan R. Pettit (who drafts the landlord tenant forms for Wisconsin Legal Blank)

When:    Saturday, February 25th, 2012. 8:30 am – 5 pm

Where:   Clarion Hotel 5311 S. Howell Avenue, Milwaukee [Map]

Included:  100 plus page manual/outline to help you put what you learn into practice plus helpful forms.

Cost:  $159 for AASEW members and $249 for non-members.  If you are not a member of AASEW but are a member of another landlord/apartment association the cost to attend will be $199.

Specials: Not a member?  Pay just a dollar more and enjoy a 2012 AASEW membership.

Wisconsin landlord-tenant laws are constantly changing.  To help keep you up to date we offer prior attendees a $50 discount.

Sign up by going to the AASEW’s Landlord Boot Camp landing page where you can sign up online and pay via PayPal.


What you will learn at the Apartment Association’s 2012 Landlord Boot Camp

Landlord Boot Camp covers everything that you need to know about residential Landlord Tenant law in Wisconsin, including:

  1. How to properly screen prospective tenants.
  2. How to draft written screening criteria to assist you in the selection process and protect you from discrimination complaints.
  3. How to comply with both federal and state Fair Housing laws including how to handle with “reasonable modifications”  and “reasonable accommodations” requests.
  4. How to legally reject an applicant.
  5. What rental documents you should be using and why.
  6. When you should be using a 5-day notice versus a 14-day notice, 28-day notice, or 30-day notice and how to properly serve the notice on your tenant.
  7. Everything you wanted to know (and probably even more than you wanted to know) about the Residential Rental Practices (ATCP 134) and how to avoid having to pay double damages to your tenant for breaching ATCP 134.
  8. When you are legally allowed to enter your tenant’s apartment.
  9. How to properly draft an eviction summons and complaint.
  10. What to do to keep the commissioner from dismissing your eviction suit.
  11. What you can legally deduct from a security deposit.
  12. How to properly draft a security deposit transmittal / 21 day letter.
  13. How to handle pet damage.
  14. What to do with a tenant’s abandoned property and how this may affect whether or not you file an eviction suit.
  15. How to pursue your ex-tenant for damages to your rental property and past due rent (and whether it is even worth it to do so).

. . .  and much more.  There will also be time for questions and answers.

You get all this for less than you would pay for an hour of an attorney’s time.

Last year’s AASEW Landlord Boot Camp was filled to capacity and we even had to turn a few people away.  So call early to reserve your spot.

Call the Association at (414) 276-7378, email or go to our Landlord Boot Camp landing page to sign up online and reserve your spot.

Remember that “landlording” is a business — so take the time to educate yourself on how to better manage your business and avoid costly errors!

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For Those of You Who Thought The Installation of A Smoke Detector Was Simple . . . READ THIS.

AASEW Board member Tim Ballering wrote the City of Milwaukee Department of Neighborhood Services (DNS) back in June to ask for clarification about the proper placement of smoke detectors in his residential rental units in the city of Milwaukee.

Ballering was prompted to write to DNS becasue he felt there was some confusion among DNS inspectors as to where smoke detectors should be installed.

Below is the entire text of Ballering’s email to DNS:


> Subject: Smoke Detectors

> There is some confusion among DNS inspectors as to where smoke detectors belong.

> Most code enforcement inspectors are of the opinion the detectors should be outside the bedroom, within 6′ of the door. Some are of the opinion that having the detector only on the inside of the bedroom does not meet code.

> Your code seems to be worded in a way that supports installing detectors outside the door at 214-27: “For floor levels containing a sleeping area, the required detector or alarm shall be installed within 6 feet of the sleeping area.”

> However construction inspectors believe the smoke detectors are required to be inside the bedrooms and units installed outside the bedroom door do not meet the code.

> The DNS Smoke Alarm brochure seems to say either is okay:
> “Either in each sleeping area of each unit or elsewhere in the unit within 6 feet of each sleeping area. If the unit contains 2 or more separate sleeping areas, each sleeping area shall be provided with a smoke alarm.”

> It obviously doesn’t matter to the property owner where the detectors are put as long as a second inspector doesn’t come along afterwards demanding they be relocated.

> So which does the code require, inside the bedroom or outside?

> And if the code doesn’t care, then which is most effective in saving lives?

> I will have the Association publish the response so more owners are knowledgable as to what you require.

> Thanks

> Tim Ballering


The City of Milwaukee emailed its 8 PAGE response to Ballering on October 21, 2011.   Here is the letter response from DNS.

While I know your time is valuable — I beg you to read the entire 8 page answer.  I want to see if you can finish reading it all the way through.  Afterwards, I would like to know if you are able to tell me where you should place the smoke detectors in your City of Milwaukee rentals.  I like to think that I am moderately intelligent person —- and I read and review statutes, case law, and ordinances several times a week as a lawyer —- but after reading this 8 page response my eyes glazed over and my brain went to mush.

The drafter’s of these codes, ordinances, statutes, regulations etc. need to realize that if they want landlords  — or anyone, for that matter — to understand them and be in compliance, they need to make it a bit more simple to understand and follow.  One should not be required to be a brain surgeon to know where to install a smoke detector and you shouldn’t have to synthesize 4 different laws in order to arrive at an answer — thank you Todd Weiler for doing that for us.  It is a relatively simple question:  where should I install a smoke detector in my rental property to best protect my tenants.  It shouldn’t take 8 pages and many hours — which I am sure Weiler had to spend compiling the answer — to answer.

But don’t fret, you probably will never have to re-read that 8 page answer again.  Instead just turn to the city’s recently revised brochure on smoke detectors.  Sometime during my reading of the brochure, my eyes regained focus, my grey matter firmed up a bit, and I felt as if I actually knew where to install smoke detectors in my rentals again.  Thank God for brochures : ).

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