This may surprise anyone living in the US but smoke detectors (rauchwarnmelder) were not that common in Germany until very recently. Over the last 10 years, the building code has been updated in to require smoke detectors in new buildings. And then only in the last few years was the law was updated to make smoke detectors mandatory in all residential buildings. Since this issue is being done the by states and not by the Federal government there is a bit of a patchwork of rules. Even now not every state requires smoke detectors in residential units. By 2020 it will be the law across of Germany.
Who is responsible for installing them?
As I talk about in my book, The Complete Guide to German Property Investment. Germans, for the most part, live in apartment buildings. And like condominiums everywhere you have a management company or Hausverwaltung that is responsible for the maintaining the building.
What is interesting about Germany is that it’s usually the Hausverwaltung, not the landlord is the one arranging installation. The way this worked for my units was the Hausverwaltung got quotes for installation and the owners voted on it during the annual meeting. If agreed then a letter was sent to all owners telling them who to contact to arrange installation and what the fee would be. As a landlord, you do have the option to install one yourself but I recommend having the Hausverwaltung arrange it. The reason being is to ensure the detectors meet building code specifications
Who is pays for installation and maintenance?
In all German states except for Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, the landlord is explicitly responsible for installing the smoke detectors. As mentioned for the most part it is done by the hausverwaltung. Keeping the smoke detector in working order is, again, mostly, the landlord’s responsibility.
The landlord include the cost inspecting and maintaining the smoke detectors but only if this is mentioned in the rental contract. I think it would be safe to assume that the average rental contract does not have any wording about rauchwarnmelder in it.
Can the tenant refuse installation of a smoke detector?
There have been issues where the tenant does not want one or insists on installing it himself. This issue was clarified by a Federal Court (BGH) judgment from 17.06.2015 (Az VIII VIII ZR 216/14 and 290/14). Basically, the ruling stated that the landlord has the right to insist on putting in his choice of smoke detectors and the tenant can not refuse.
Who pays for this?
The landlord does. Interestingly enough you can claim this as part of the 11% rent increase due to modernization measures. I suspect that most landlords simply use a straight line deduction.
Smoke Detectors and tenants: a question of liability.
In Ontario, the landlord bears the legal responsibility to ensure the smoke detector remains in working order. Experienced property managers usually suggest either wiring it directly into the power or using 10-year non-removable batteries. It’s all too common that a tenant needs a set of batteries they’ll simply take ones from the smoke detector and all too often forgetting to put them back in. In this case, the landlord would be legally liable for a nonworking detector.
As far as I know in Germany this situation has not come before the courts, but whether the courts have ruled on the issue of liability or not. The best course of action is to install them and inspect them once a year.