HUD Smoke Detector and Heat Sensor Bills Pass Committee

Legislation | June 22, 2022 | by Linda Couch

On June 22, the House Committee on Financial Services passed several bills, including one, HR 6528, that would establish a pilot program on heat sensors in HUD-assisted units and the other, HR 7981,that would require either tamper resistant or hardwired smoke alarms to be installed in federally assisted housing.  

On June 22, the House Committee on Financial Services passed several bills, including one, HR 6528, which would establish a pilot program on heat sensors in HUD-assisted units and the other, HR 7981, which would require either tamper resistant or hardwired smoke alarms to be installed in federally assisted housing.  

The bills, introduced by Representatives Richie Torres (D-NY) and Madeleine Dean (D-PA), respectively, respond to fires in HUD-assisted housing in the Bronx and Philadelphia.

Currently, there is no widespread technology system used to monitor unit temperature to ensure compliance with minimum heating requirements in federally-assisted housing. The heat sensor bill, Housing Temperature Safety Act, HR 6528, as amended in Committee, would establish a voluntary pilot program at HUD to install and study the efficacy of temperature sensor technology in federally assisted housing to ensure units are maintaining proper temperature levels. The theory is that maintaining adequate heat temperatures would decrease resident use of space heaters, which sparked the fire and ultimately led to the smoke inhalation death of 17 people in January.

The Public and Federally Assisted Housing Fire Safety Act, HR 7981, would require the installation of tamper-resistant or hardwired smoke alarms in federally assisted housing. During the Committee’s mark up, Representative Dean described the results of the Philadelphia fire’s investigation. “After all, of the seven smoke alarms in the row home, all of which were the kind that require frequent battery replacement, four were in drawers. One was on the floor without batteries. One was in the ceiling without batteries and a final fire alarm was working, but located in a basement,” Representative Dean said.

As amended in Committee, the bill would require either tamper resistant or hardwired smoke alarms to be installed in federally assisted housing.

Specifically, for assisted units built prior to the enactment of H.R. 7981 that do not already have a hardwired smoke alarm, the bill would require the installation of tamper resistant battery-powered smoke alarms that: 1) are sealed; 2) include a silencing mechanism; and 3) are able to provide notification for persons with hearing loss. For new or substantially rehabilitated units, the bill would require the installation of hardwired smoke alarms. The bill would also require HUD to run a national educational campaign about housing health and safety requirements, and how to properly use fire safety features including smoke alarms. Finally, the bill provides such funding as may be necessary to carry out the bill’s requirements. Neither current HUD standards nor HUD’s forthcoming standards under NSPIRE, as proposed but not finalized, require a hardwired or ten-year sealed battery smoke detector.

Read HR 6528.

Read HR 7981.