New Codes For Rental Homes — What is Required of the Owner?

Here at Countryside Alarms, we’re committed to stay abreast of changes in the Fire & Building Safety Code. We are the leading experts in Vermont, and we believe in helping property owners understand the rules and ensure the safety of their renters while keeping costs to a minimum. Without help, the complex bureaucracy can be both intimidating and costly to navigate. When we come to inspect your building, we are working for you, not the State. We will always give you an honest assessment of what you need without promoting unnecessary expense. We will work with you to find the most cost-effective way to meet minimum code and protect your property and its occupants.

On October 23, 2005 Vermont enacted the current Fire & Building Safety Code. A major change to the code was the addition of 24.1.1.1.1 which redefines a single family home which is rented. Under this rule, the safety code identifies the building occupancy class by the number of sleeping Bed Spaces. A Bed Space is considered a pull out sofa bed, bunks, futons, and beds. If the space can sleep two, then it is counted as two, and so on. As the sleeping numbers increase, so do the requirements.

  • Single Family Rental Occupancy: is for 1-8 bed spaces.
  • Duplex (1&2 family) with a single owner where one unit rents in the 1-8 bedspace category and the second rents in the 9-16 bedspace category, the more stringent 9-16 rules must be followed for both.
  • Duplex Townhouse (units not owned by the same person) where 1-8 bedspace category is on one side, and 9-16 bedspace category on the other, the more stringent 9-16 rules don’t apply to the 1-8 side.
  • Rooming & Lodging Rental Occupancy: is for 9-16 bed spaces.
  • Hotel Occupancy: You might think this was for large hotels, but in fact this is also the standard for homes with 17 bed spaces or more.

We cover more then just smoke & CO detectors. We also look at bedroom egress windows, staircases, commercial fire systems, fire extinguishers, vented heating and locking of exit doors. If some of these areas are not code compliant, a full sprinkler system will be required or you must stop renting.

It is our goal to help advise you of your options. Most homeowners are renting for income to help pay the cost of their second home in Vermont. If an owner is caught with violations, in most cases, the compliance time before fines & penalties are applied is 90 days. At this point, any chance of qualifying with the existing system has disappeared; and you will have to bring the system up to the current code.

Beware that your renters can notify the State of Vermont Public Safety of code violations, and some do just to avoid paying the full lodging fees.

From the beginning of 2007 to date, the number of inspectors has more than doubled. This has been done to locate rental occupancies and make sure that they all comply with the current code standards. The State is cracking down.

We want to help make any rental owner aware of their current situation by providing the following safety requirements to be in compliance, based on the number your property sleeps. This is safety for yourself, as well as those who are renting from you.

Help With Rental Requirements and Inspection

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We are a private company and do not report our findings to the State of Vermont. You can trust us to have your best interests in mind, and to honestly assess your needs and requirements. We will help you with obtaining a variance if that is needed to keep your costs to a minimum.

Minimum Safe Requirements

  • Wired smoke & CO detection. Per NFPA 101 9.6.2.10, commercial system detection wired or wireless can be used.
  • Have a fire extinguisher accessible in main living space.
  • Remove key operated deadbolts from exit side of egress doors.
  • Each bedroom shall have a fire exit window. Must have 5.7 square feet of clear opening when opened and window sill shall not be more than 240” off of ground outside.
  • All decks & stairs over 30” high require railings.
  • Fuel burning heating appliances required to be vented in Vermont.
  • CO detection in bedrooms with fuel burning appliances
  • Have your furnaces serviced yearly.
  • Exits need to be kept shoveled in the winter.

Single Family Occupancy – 8 or less occupants sleeping

This is the lowest category where the minimum is required. Rental allows the State of Vermont to enforce the above. Existing primary exit stairways do not need to be roofed or have railings meeting new codes. Fire systems do not require yearly inspections. Household smoke detectors need to be replaced every 10 years and household CO detectors every 5 years.

It’s important to note that there is no longer a 25% allowance for rental of part of your dwelling. All rental use must be reported for tax purposes, and you will be subject to the minimum safe requirement. The rental use percentage is generally the same percentage as reported on your Federal income tax return.

Rooming & Lodging Occupancy – 9 to 16 occupants sleeping

Follow all of the above requirements for Low Rooming & Lodging. The additional requirements or changes are as follows:

  • Commercial manual-activated fire alarm system required. Yearly TQP inspections required.  Must display state stickers.
  • Bedroom doors must be solid core or modified to maintain 20 minute fire rating. Doors must be self-closing and latch shut.
  • 13R Sprinkler system is required if any of the minimum egress standards do not exist and on any new construction or major renovation after 10/2005.
  • Existing standard for sprinkler will usually apply if minimum egress requirements exist. (You must maintain proof of rental prior to 10/05 to be considered existing).
  • Visual Fire Signaling starts at 10 sleeping, without owner occupying building.
  • Commercial monitored smoke system will also help in existing buildings.

Hotel Occupancy – 17 and over occupants sleeping

The most demanding of sleeping occupancy.

Egress and fire separation requirements must exist or a sprinkler system is required.

  • Bedrooms require approved smoke detection.
  • Commercial fire alarm system with hallway smoke detection, and manual pull stations at exit doors required. Occupant notification per NFPA 72. Yearly TQP inspection. Must display state stickers:
    fire inspection sticker 2016VT Fire Inspection Sticker 2019
  • All elevated primary egress stairs must be roofed.
  • Fire alarm system must be monitored.
  • Only one locking device shall be on any exit door. No Deadbolts.