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Boston Fire Commissioner Fraser Announces Policy Changes for Smoke Detector Inspections         

In an effort to improve service and meet its responsibilities for the timely performance of smoke and carbon monoxide detectors inspections, Boston Fire Department Commissioner Roderick Fraser has announced a major revision to the Department’s policy on Certificate of Compliance inspections.   Effective August 1, 2012, only homes and residential dwelling units in buildings constructed prior to 1975 with five or fewer units will be inspected for smoke detector compliance.  This policy change follows other swift steps ordered by Fraser earlier this spring to address scheduling delays and other issues associated with the inspection process, including extension of the effective period of inspection certificates from 60 to 90 days, approval of overtime for inspectors, and the hiring of a scheduler exclusively to coordinate inspection appointments.

In concert with the new policy set to take effect this August, revisions also are being made to the language of the certificate of compliance to acknowledge whether or not a smoke detector compliance inspection was required.  Also, REALTORS® should be aware that for any scheduled smoke detector inspections made prior to July 17, but occurring after August 1, the inspection will be performed based on the newly adopted policy and acknowledged on the certificate. 

In a memorandum announcing its latest changes, Deputy Fire Chief Bart Shea made clear that the updated certificate of compliance policy simply mirrors state law (MGL Chapter 148, Sect. 26F), which exempts sellers of residential properties built on or after January 1, 1975 or those with six or more dwelling units from obtaining a smoke detector compliance certificate at the time of sale or transfer.  This exemption reflects the fact that smoke detectors in post-1975 built housing units are installed under rules of the state building code that went into effect in 1975, which mandates more sophisticated systems in residential buildings of six or more units.  Smoke alarm systems in these buildings are installed under the electrical or building code, which the Fire Department is not in a position to enforce, according to Shea.  “If a seller or lender persist in requiring a certificate of compliance for a property not mandated to be inspected under the general laws of the Commonwealth, a third party certification will have to suffice,” advises Shea.

Notably, there will be no change in the performance of inspections or issuance of compliance certificates for carbon monoxide detectors.  The Boston Fire Department will continue to perform CO detector inspections and issue certificates of compliance for all residential dwellings regardless of the year the building was constructed or number of units it houses.   However, be advised that for CO detector inspections performed in an individual unit in a condo/coop complex of six or more units where deficiencies are identified in the common area or a local unit smoke detector, the Fire Department inspector will issue an abatement (to be written to the condo or cooperative board) if the deficiency can’t be immediately corrected.

Greater Boston Real Estate Board CEO Gregory Vasil thanked Commissioner Fraser for moving quickly to address the issue. “The Commissioner acted quickly and decisively to solve this problem.  He acted in the best interest of public safety with an eye towards moving closings quickly through the process,” observed Vasil.

For more information on the Certificate of Compliance policy changes and to schedule your smoke and CO detector inspections refer to the Fire Prevention Division page on the Department’s website.