Where There’s Smoke There’s Potentially Fire
It is vital that landlords become more aware of their responsibilities in installing and maintaining smoke alarms in their rental properties.
Apart from being required by law, it could also be a matter of life and death.
Many landlords were unaware of their responsibilities when it came to smoke alarms and with laws governing smoke alarms differing from state to state, there were many grey areas and much room for confusion.
Sometimes when property managers tell landlords they need to get their smoke alarms tested, the landlords get annoyed because they think it is just something that's going to cost them more money whereas in most states, it is their legal responsibility to do so.
This responsibility can extend to the cleaning of smoke alarms. It may also include professional testing, ensuring alarms were tested at the legally required time intervals, ensuring the right type of smoke alarms installed, minimum voltage requirements were met or mains powered smoke alarms fitted.
Landlords needed to be aware of the required intervals for the testing of smoke alarms in their rental properties. While property managers could often organise for smoke alarms to be professionally tested, landlords were ultimately responsible for complying and educating themselves on smoke alarm laws in their state or territory.
If landlords are unsure of what actions they need to take, they should speak with their property manager right away.
State by State Requirements for Smoke Alarm Installation and Maintenance
The Building Code of Australia requires that smoke alarms be fitted in all new residential properties and several states require smoke alarms be fitted in all residential properties.
Smoke alarms are mandatory in ALL dwellings in New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland and South Australia. Additionally, some insurance policies now make it compulsory to have smoke detectors fitted.
New South Wales
As a result of the recently introduced NSW Residential Tenancies Regulation 2010 the responsibility now falls solely on the landlord to ensure smoke alarms are installed and maintained.
Both tenants and landlords have responsibilities for smoke alarms in their rental properties. Tenants have an obligation to clean, test and replace batteries for alarms during a tenancy, while landlords are responsible for the installation, cleaning and testing of smoke alarms as well as replacing batteries before the start or renewal of a tenancy.
In Victoria self contained smoke alarms must be installed in all residential buildings including homes, units, flats and townhouses. It is the legal responsibility of landlords to install and maintain smoke alarms.
Landlords are responsible for ensuring all rental properties have the correct smoke detector installed and operating at all times. The type of smoke detector required depends on the age of the property and when it was purchased. All houses built after 1995 must have 240 volt hard wired smoke alarm.
It is the legal responsibility of all owners and landlords to install working smoke alarms. Mandatory laws to fit improved smoke alarms could come into effect in the Northern Territory soon, with the Government moving to make it mandatory for all pre-1997 houses in the Territory to be fitted with photo-electric smoke alarms.
Since September 1994 new homes in the Australian Capital Territory have been required to have mains-powered smoke alarms installed. It is also a requirement to have smoke alarms installed in home extensions that impact on sleeping and living areas.
From 1st October 2010 mains powered smoke alarms must be fitted in all existing residential buildings prior to sale and when a new tenancy agreement is signed for rental properties. If there are no tenancy changes in rental properties, then mains powered smoke alarms must be fitted by 1st October 2011. If there is no hidden space to run the necessary electrical wiring and there is no appropriate alternative location - the landlord must ensure the alarm has a 10 year life battery that cannot be removed. The landlord must also ensure that each alarm installed in the dwelling is in working order.
Current legislation requires all new homes to be fitted with the smoke alarms, but the Real Estate Institute of Tasmania wants the rules extended to older homes. In Tasmania, tenants are responsible for keeping smoke detectors clean and replacing batteries.