My interpretation is that in Minnesota, the landlord of a residence is responsible for keeping the smoke detector functioning, and that this is part of the implied warranty of habitability. I think that means that if a fire breaks out due to a failure to install or repair the smoke detector, the landlord is liable for damages.

I think the most relevant laws are these 504B.161 COVENANTS OF LANDLORD OR LICENSOR Subd 1(a)(1) and Subd 1(a)(2) and Subd 2 and 299F.362 SMOKE DETECTOR; INSTALLATION; RULES; PENALTY Subd 5 and 5a.

But I know in the law there's often more to the story. Is there a way for a tenant to agree to assume the risks resulting from broken smoke detectors? What happens to a lease that tries to do this?

  • Not an answer as I'm not an expert on Minnesota law, but you should bear in mind insurance (and other agreements such as mortgages) which may become invalid if the property is not adequately protected against fire.
    – Stuart F
    May 21, 2023 at 19:07

1 Answer 1


The fair reading is that the landlord must always ultimately be responsible for maintaining smoke detectors, even if the lease purports to say otherwise.

The lease could probably shift the economic cost of complying to the tenant (e.g. charging the tenant for batteries and personnel to maintain it in addition to rent). But ultimately, in situations where the statute requires the landlord to have working smoke detectors, the landlord can't use the failure of the tenant to do their job as a defense to liability or a fine. The more specific smoke detector statute probably prevails over the more general statute on allocating responsibilities between the landlord and the tenant when it applies.

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