Smoke Alarm

Here’s a quick overview of how to ensure your properties are compliant with the current regulations in your state.

As a property investor, it’s important that you understand the rules and regulations for smoke alarms in any properties you own.

This isn’t as simple as it sounds, because the standards you need to meet to protect your tenants differ depending on the state your property is located in.

The smoke alarm regulations in your state also evolve over time, not simply to cost you money and give you another thing to keep up-to-date with – but to keep your tenants safe.

Here’s a quick overview of how to ensure your properties are compliant with the current regulations in your state.

Queensland

The Fire and Emergency Services (Domestic Smoke Alarms) Amendment Act 2016 (Qld) effective from 1 January 2017 and imposes additional obligations on property owners with regards to the installation and maintenance of smoke alarms at domestic dwellings.

Some of the new regulations call for smoke alarms to be installed in every bedroom, and in hallways.

Queenslanders may have felt the recent financial pressure from a shift in standards – but they need not worry just yet.

If their existing smoke alarms were manufactured less than 10 years ago, and are still in good working order, they will comply with the new legislative requirements.

In fact, most of the new requirements will not be in effect until 2022. So, while compliance with these regulations is imperative, the time pressures at this stage do not present an issue.

However, it is important for property owners to understand the new requirements and the timeframes that apply. 

From January 1 2017, owners must make sure:

  • When replacing smoke alarms, they are of a photoelectric type that complies with Australian Standard (AS) 3786-2014.
  • Existing smoke alarms manufactured more than 10 years ago must be replaced.
  • Smoke alarms that do not operate when tested must be replaced immediately.
  • Existing hardwired smoke alarms that need replacing must be replaced with a hardwired photoelectric smoke alarm.

The new legislation will have further implications on property owners, with more requirements for compliance effective from early 2022.

You can always find out more about the new smoke alarm legislation from Queensland Fire and Emergency Services, or you can contact your property manager for some helpful advice.

Victoria

Smoke alarms must be installed in all Victorian houses, units, flats and townhouses – and landlords are responsible for fitting smoke alarms in rented properties.

Hardwired smoke alarms with a battery back-up must be installed in all buildings constructed after 1 August 1997. Buildings constructed before that date can have a battery-powered smoke alarm.

Rooming houses (buildings where one or more rooms are available to rent, and four or more people in total can occupy those rooms) must have hardwired smoke alarms.

For more information on testing, maintaining and replacing smoke alarms, visit the Metropolitan Fire Brigade’s website.

For more information on your responsibilities with regards to smoke alarms, see the Victorian government website.

Otherwise, feel free to contact your property manager for advice on ensuring your compliance with the regulations.

New South Wales

In New South Wales, the responsibilities of landlords and tenants under the Residential Tenancies Act are clearly outlined.

  • Landlords are responsible for installing smoke alarms in rented premises.
  • Landlords have the right of access to rented premises to fit or maintain smoke alarms after giving the tenant a notice period of at least 2 days.
  • Neither the landlord nor the tenant are, except with reasonable excuse, permitted to remove or interfere with the operation of a smoke alarm fitted in the rented premises.
  • Where a smoke alarm is of the type that has a replaceable battery, it is recommended that the landlord put a new battery in at the commencement of a tenancy.
  • Legally, after the tenancy begins, the tenant is responsible for replacing the battery if needed. However, we recommend that owners schedule annual smoke alarm maintenance checks to secure smoke alarms are operating effectively.
  • The condition report includes a specific reference to smoke alarms, so that tenants and landlords can note and comment on the presence of smoke alarms at the beginning and end of the tenancy.

For further information, you can visit the New South Wales government website, or get in touch with your property manager today. 

Fire

Tasmania

In Tasmania, smoke alarms must comply with the Australian Standard (AS3786-1993 Smoke Alarms).

  • Compliant smoke alarms are available at most electrical appliance outlets and hardware stores.
  • Even if the standard changes, compliance with the standard will continue until the alarm:
  • No longer functions.
  • Reaches its expiry date.
  • A replacement alarm must meet the requirements of the current standard at the time of replacement.

Hard wired smoke alarms must be installed by a qualified electrician. This person must be aware of all the relevant Standards relating to the installation.

More information is available from Standards Australia, or you can contact your property manager for helpful advice.

Western Australia

It has been the law under the Building Code of Australia (BCA), since 1997, to install mains powered smoke alarms in new properties and any existing properties that have undergone significant renovations.

From 1 October 2009, 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 have been fitted by 1 October 2011.

These requirements are mandatory under the Local Government (Miscellaneous provisions) Act 1960 section 248 and the Local Government Act 1995 section 9.60, and the Building Amendments Regulations 2009.

While mains powered smoke alarms are the preferred alternative, smoke alarms with a non-removable ten-year battery life are permitted in dwellings where the construction of the building does not permit a space to conceal the wiring and there is no other suitable alternative location or where mains power supply is not available.

You can find more information on the government website, or you can get in touch with your property manager to discuss compliance needs.  

Northern Territory

The NT Government announced changes to the Fire and Emergency Regulations to mandate working smoke alarms in all NT residences as of 1 November 2011.

Now, all residential properties must have a working smoke alarm.

If you already have a working ionization smoke alarm installed, you do not have to change to a photoelectric smoke alarm until one of the following occurs:

  • Your smoke alarm ceases to work. You then need to replace it with either a hardwired 240 volt photoelectric smoke alarm with a 9 volt back-up battery, or a photoelectric smoke alarm with a sealed 10-year lithium battery.
  • You sell the property.
  • You rent out your premises or renew a tenancy.

In the instance of a tenancy change, renewed lease or sale of property, a landlord or seller must ensure that a working photoelectric smoke alarm is installed.

The responsibility for ensuring the alarm in a tenanted property is maintained in working order is that of the tenant.

You can find more information here, or you can contact your property manager.

Remember that your property manager is always happy to help, and will strive to keep you informed of your responsibilities pending any changes to regulations.

Talk to them today for advice on ensuring your compliance with the relevant regulations in your state. 

About the author

Felicity Cullen