The installation of smoke detectors is to be obligatory in all homes from 2015.
The new regulations recently issued by the government make it clear that this requirement will apply equally to existing homes as well as new properties.
At the present time only around 2% of the 33 million properties in France are equipped with a smoke detector, so the fire equipment industry is lining itself up for a bonanza in sales.
This is a measure that has had a long gestation period, as enabling legislation was first passed in the French Parliament in 2005.
However, behind the scenes there has been a lively debate about who should have responsibility for the installation of the alarms in rental properties.
In the end the government have decided that the obligation applies to the occupant of the property, excepting those in seasonal and furnished lettings.
The new decree is as yet short on other detail, so there will be more detailed regulations to be issued in the future.
At the moment it seems only one smoke detector will be required in each property, but that could change.
There is no stipulation that it should be either powered by battery or from the mains supply, except that if it is the latter, the alarm must be able to operate in the absence of electrical power.
Once the installation has been carried out, then owners and tenants must notify their insurer.
Somewhat oddly, however, the regulations do not permit an insurer to refuse a policy on the grounds that no smoke detector is installed. They merely have the right to apply a much larger ‘excess’ on the policy.
There are around 800 deaths each year in France from house fires, 70% of which happen at night when the victim is asleep.
Contrary to perceived opinion, the odour of smoke does not wake a person; the carbon monoxide actually plunges a person into a deeper sleep, and can be mortal within 15 minutes with only 1% of carbon monoxide in the air.
In 2009, the consumer watchdog, the Institut National de la Consommation, undertook a test of eight popular smoke alarms on the market, only two of which properly passed the tests carried out on them. See the article below for more information on these tests.