Stop beeping
January 8, 2019 6:09 AM   Subscribe

The apartment underneath me is vacant and their smoke detector is out of batteries. What recourse do I have?

My landlord has lodged multiple complaints with the owners, who claim they have replaced the batteries. When I moved in, I had to discard one of my detectors because it was defective and new batteries didn't stop the chirping (it would start up a week or two later again). So I'm fairly certain that's what's happening here. I asked my landlord to have them remove the broken detector and replace it but that message isn't getting across.

I'm certain it's their detector because this happened last year, and it was that apartment. It was vacant at the time. My landlord called and they fixed it asap, then rented the apartment out shortly after. There were tenants for awhile and they must have been doing something because the beeping ceased when they lived there. Now the apartment has been sold and the new owners don't seem to care.

I have to sleep and work with a noise machine on high and can still hear it - a chirp every 30 seconds. It's interfering with my quiet enjoyment of my home. My landlord is doing what he can but that doesn't seem to be working.

Is there something else I can do? Could I call the fire department and have them do something? Other ideas I haven't thought of?
posted by sockermom to Home & Garden (13 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
Calling the fire department is a good idea here. Even the police would be reasonable. There's no downside to either one with no actual neighbors involved.
posted by asperity at 6:13 AM on January 8 [3 favorites]


You live in an apartment building where apartments are owned by different people; are these condos? Is there a condo board or some governing group that you can contact? Who makes decisions about maintenance on shared spaces like hallways or elevators?
posted by needs more cowbell at 6:21 AM on January 8 [4 favorites]


These are condos. My landlord has contacted the management company but they said it's the owners responsibility. He has requested that someone from management visit with the owner but I don't think that has happened.

The only shared space is the sidewalk. They're more like townhouses. It took two years and many complaints for them to replace a light on the side of the building that had gone out, so I don't think management is particularly responsive.
posted by sockermom at 6:23 AM on January 8


Call the fire department and report a smoke detector going off in a vacant unit at the appropriate address. Explain no more.
posted by DarlingBri at 6:38 AM on January 8 [16 favorites]


Call the fire department and report a smoke detector going off in a vacant unit at the appropriate address. Explain no more.

Former firefighter here. Please don’t do this. They will be required to respond as if it’s a full structure fire until they learn differently and you will be diverting resources from legitimate emergencies.

Call the non-emergency line instead and say your concern is that the detector is clearly not working, leaving an unoccupied unit unprotected in a building with common walls and you feel unsafe. They’ll help you figure something out. Also, there’s a good chance an unprotected unit is against condo board rules and possibly even the fire code in your area.
posted by _Mona_ at 6:54 AM on January 8 [86 favorites]


Fire non-emergency line, or if you live in a big enough city you can usually call 311 (or there may even be an app for your city's 311) about non-emergent code type problems.
posted by Lyn Never at 7:33 AM on January 8 [1 favorite]


Former firefighter here. Please don’t do this. They will be required to respond as if it’s a full structure fire until they learn differently and you will be diverting resources from legitimate emergencies.

Also, given that you KNOW it's not a fire, you could be charged with mishcief or nuisance, and if it's classified as a false alarm your condo building (and thus you) could be on the line for false-alarm fines.

I like the "report it as a unit without a working smoke detector" idea. My condo's smoke detectors are inspected every year by the fire department, so assuming the same happens where you are, the worse case is you have to wait for the annual inspection to come around. Hopefully it's been 11.5 months since the last one.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 7:56 AM on January 8


Police department. Noise complaint. Keep calling.
Drop by with some brownies as a thank you once it is resolved. Ask if there is a record of complaints with that owner.

Send a letter with details. Send a copy electronically. Get a case file started.
This puts it on record as a problem for future complaints.
There could be fines.
posted by TrishaU at 8:10 AM on January 8


Yeah a non-emergency report to the Fire Dept about a non-working detector should be enough to move the apparently brain dead management company. No one wants fire inspections and code violations to accumulate.

Is anyone else affected and bothered? A written complaint from more than one owner, maybe written by a lawyer, or in very formal legal language, to management that specifically names their liability IF an actual fire occurs will also move the mountain. Copied to the property insurer. Once informed of a legal liability like that any sane business would act immediately to remove the formally warned liability. Send it certified mail too. Always scares ‘em.

Be sure to sound very worried and concerned, not pissed off.

No phone calls. Do it all in writing.
posted by spitbull at 8:30 AM on January 8 [2 favorites]


I think you need to learn about bump keys.

I'm a big fan of creative solutions but this suggestion has a pretty rough failure mode.
posted by Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drug at 8:31 AM on January 8 [3 favorites]


If the fire department non-emergency line doesn't work, cut out the middleman.

Clearly the landlord and the management company are useless, despite their best intentions. Go directly to the owners and/or the condo board. Look up who the owners actually are using parcel records. Send them a certified letter about this or take them to small claims court. Be a pain in their ass because clearly they don't care about the effect their neglect of their vacant property has on you. Notify the condo board that your smoke detector was entirely defective and that more than replacing the batteries is required. Include dates at which your landlord has tried (and failed) to get this resolved.
posted by purple_bird at 9:08 AM on January 8 [2 favorites]


My landlord has lodged multiple complaints with the owners, who claim they have replaced the batteries. When I moved in, I had to discard one of my detectors because it was defective and new batteries didn't stop the chirping (it would start up a week or two later again). So I'm fairly certain that's what's happening here.

If the device is also a carbon monoxide detector, it may be chirping its end of life warning, which continues even after you have replaced the batteries. So the new owners may be thinking "leave us alone; we changed the batteries" without realizing that they need to swap the whole thing out.

Good luck getting it sorted out and credit to you for your patience so far; a beeping smoke alarm that you can hear but not access is the stuff of nightmares.
posted by AgentRocket at 9:52 AM on January 8 [4 favorites]


This happened to me once - it was the vacant house that we shared a wall with. We called the non-emergency line (I can't remember if it was police or fire), and much to our surprise they did send out a truck of firemen in full gear within a few minutes. The concern was, especially since it was the middle of a row of homes all connected to a city gas line, if it wasn't a battery/bad detector and was instead an alarm, they didn't want to be responsible for possible loss of property and life. They broke in through a window, killed the alarm, and I think notified the listing agent for the property.

All of that is to say, definitely give the non-emergency line a call.
posted by okayokayigive at 2:22 PM on January 8 [2 favorites]


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