Multi-Family Rental Inspection Criteria

The North St. Paul Fire Department inspects all multi-family housing units in the city every two years. All multi-family units must:

  • Be licensed annually
  • Provide information on their solid waste and recycling hauler
  • Meet the requirements for fire protection, smoke alarms, carbon monoxide alarms and key boxes
  • Abide by the residential heating standards
  • Provide back flow preventer test reports if the building is heated by a boiler

All multi-family rental housing licenses must meet the following:

Fire Protection System Testing

Fire protection systems must be tested in accordance with their respective standards by qualified personnel. Once tested, documentation must be provided to the Fire Inspectors. These systems include:

  • Fire alarm systems
  • Sprinkler systems
  • Standpipes
  • Fire pumps
  • Fire extinguishers

Monitored Fire Alarm System Required

  • All R-2 occupancy type buildings with five or more units are required to have a monitored fire alarm system per NFPA72
  • All R-2 occupancy type buildings with five or more units must have carbon monoxide alarms connected to the building's fire alarm system and monitored as a distinct carbon monoxide alarm by an approved remote of central station service per NFPA 72.

Fire Extinguishers

Size and location:

  • The required extinguisher size is 2A-10BC. This size will be printed on the extinguisher and is the nationally recognized way to rate fire extinguishers.
  • The travel distance to access a fire extinguisher is a maximum of 75 feet. This means extinguishers must be spaced appropriately so a person does not have to travel more than 75 feet to access an extinguisher.
  • 2A-10BC fire extinguishers must be installed in a conspicuous location where they will be readily accessible and immediately available. Installation must be so the top of the extinguisher is no more than 5 feet above the floor, and the clearance between the floor and the bottom of the installed extinguisher is not less than 4 inches.

Smoke Alarms

More fire deaths occur in residential buildings than in any other building type. More than half of all fire deaths occur when the occupants are asleep and unaware a fire has occurred; death usually results from asphyxiation long before the fire reaches the bedroom.

Smoke alarms installed in a hoe give an early warning of smoke and fire giving the occupants the critical few moments needed to escape.

General Requirements

Requirements vary by the age of the building and include:

  • Whether this is a new or existing building
  • Whether the building currently has smoke alarms
  • Location of smoke alarms
  • Power supply for smoke alarms
  • Interconnection of smoke alarms

Placement of Smoke Alarms

  • In hallways outside sleeping rooms
  • In sleeping rooms
  • On each level of the building including basement
  • Ceiling (at least 4 inches from wall) or wall (4-12 inches below ceiling
  • On center of ceiling above stairways

New Buildings Constructed on or after 7/10/2007

  • Power supply
    • Hard-wired (120 volt
    • Battery back-up also required
    • Interconnection 
      • Yes; must sound in all areas when activated

Existing Buildings Constructed before 8/1/1989

  • Power supply
    • Hard-wired (120 volt) preferred
    • Can be battery powered
    • Interconnection
      • No; interconnection is nor required or possible with battery powered alarms

Existing Buildings Constructed on or after 8/1/1989

  • Power supply
    • Hard-wired (120 volt)
    • Interconnection
      • No; interconnection is not required

Replacement of Smoke Alarms in new and existing building

  • Location
    • Must be installed in same locations as originally installed
  • Power Supply
    • Power supply must be the same as the smoke alarm being replaced
  • Interconnection
    • Interconnection must be provided if it was present with the smoke alarms being replaced

Required replacement of smoke alarms

  • The life expectancy of smoke alarms is 10 years, therefore, all smoke alarms 10 years old and older must be replaced. You can usually find a manufacturing date on the back of the alarm.

Alterations, Repairs and Additions

When alterations, repairs or additions requiring a permit occur; or when one or more sleeping rooms are added or created in existing dwellings, the individual dwelling unit shall be equipped with smoke alarms located as required for new dwellings. These smoke alarms must be interconnected and hard wired. However, under certain circumstances when the smoke alarm is unable to be hard wired, a smoke alarm with a 10-year battery that is interconnected can be approved by the Fire Inspector.

Carbon Monoxide Alarms

Carbon Monoxide (CO) is an odorless, colorless gas often formed during the process of incomplete combustion of organic substances, including fuels. It is dangerous because it interferes with normal oxygen intake for humans and other living organisms needing oxygen to live. CO is a gas that can build up to a dangerous concentration indoors when fuel burning devises are not properly vented, operated or maintained. Because it has no odor, color or taste, CO cannot be detected by our senses. Fortunately, simple measures can be taken to prevent CO problems. One action is the installation of a CO alarm to detect potentially deadly conditions.

General Location Requirements

  • Within 10 feet of each room lawfully used for sleeping purposes, installed per manufacturer's instructions.

Listing or Certification of Alarms

  • All CO alarms shall be certified by a nationally recognized testing laboratory to conform to the latest Underwriters Laboratory (UL) Standards. (Also known as UL2034 Standards.)

Required Placement of CO Alarms

  • The life expectancy of CO alarms is 7 years, therefore, all alarms 7 years old and older must be replaced. You can usually find a manufacturing date on the back of the alarm.

Owner Responsibility in Multifamily Dwellings

  • It is the owner's responsibility of a multifamily dwelling that is required to be equipped with carbon monoxide alarms to:
    1. Provide and install one approved and operational carbon monoxide alarm within 10 feet of each room lawfully used for sleeping.
    2. Replace any required carbon monoxide that has been stolen, removed, found missing, or rendered inoperable during a prior occupancy of the dwelling unit and which has not been replaced by the occupant prior to the commencement of a new occupancy of a dwelling unit.


  • CO alarms must either be hardwired into the electrical wiring, directly plugged into an electrical outlet without a switch, or battery powered.

Battery Removal and Tampering Prohibited

  • No person shall remove batteries from, or in any way render inoperable, a required carbon monoxide alarm.

Exceptions for Certain Multifamily Dwellings.  (Must be approved by the Fire Inspector)

  • Multifamily dwellings may have approved and operational carbon monoxide alarms installed between 15 and 25 feet of carbon monoxide producing central fixtures and equipment provided there is a centralized, monitored fire/CO alarm system. Required for all buildings with 5 or more units.
  • An owner of a multifamily dwelling that contains minimal or no sources of carbon monoxide may be exempted from the requirements provided that such owner certifies to the Commissioner of Public Safety that such multifamily dwelling poses no foreseeable carbon monoxide carbon monoxide risk to the health and safety to the dwelling units.

Residential Heating Standards

Many owners have confused the legal dates of utility shut-off requirements (October-April) with the code requirements to provide heat. To clarify, this specific requirement, please note a building owner or manager is responsible to maintain the heat in a dwelling unit to at least 68 degrees three feet above the floor in any occupied room at any time, from September through May. Failure to do so may result in enforcement action. The law does not allow tenants to remain in a dwelling that lacks the basic services of hear, light and water.

Key Box Requirements, Installation & Maintenance

A key box is an armored, tamper-proof box where entry keys are place for the Fire and Police Departments so use in an emergency. Having a key box installed on your property also helps minimize damage when gaining access into your property in an emergency. Only North St Paul Fire and Police Department personnel are allowed to possess keys to the boxes. Key boxes are for emergency use only.

Minnesota State Fire Code 506.1--Where required.

Where access to or within a structure or an area is restricted because of secured openings or where immediate access is necessary for life-saving or fire-fighting purposes, the fire code official is authorized to require a key box to be installed in an approved location. The key box shall be an approved type, and shall contain keys to gain necessary access as required by the fire code official.

Key Boxes Required:

All commercial and multifamily residential buildings in the City of North St. Paul as required by the fire code official.

Type of Key Box

The only approved key box specified for use in the City of North St. Paul is the Dama Lock Box. Key boxes may only be purchased from the North St. Paul Fire Department.


A main entrance key shall be provided. The fire code official shall require additional keys, if necessary, for the following areas: boiler/furnace/mechanical/storage rooms, and automatic sprinkler control rooms. If the building has a fire alarm system, a key for the control panel shall also be provided. All keys provided must be tagged and clearly marked as to the function of the key.


Installation instructions are included with each key box. For proper mounting installation, you must follow the manufacturer's installation instructions. The installation location of the key box shall be approved by the fire code official.

  • The lock box shall be installed no higher than 6 feet (72 inches), and no lower than 4 feet (48 inches) to the bottom of the box.
  • Once the box is installed, contact the North St. Paul Fire Department at (651) 747-2405 or email to secure the key(s) within the lock box.


If any lock or key is changed, a new key must be made available to the Fire Department within 5-days of the change. Please call the North St. Paul Fire Department at 651-747-2405 or email nsptd@northstpaul.orgto have the key box unlocked and the proper keys replaced.