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The Landlords Guide to Smoke Alarms, Compliance and Fire Safety for Properties in Australia

 

There’s a lot of responsibility involved in being a landlord, especially when it comes to safety and more specifically, fire safety. Here at RentBetter, we want to make it easy for landlords when it comes to their self-management journey so we have put together this guide on everything you need to know when it comes to your responsibility as a landlord on Smoke Alarms and Compliance in properties, across Australia. 

 

What is a Smoke Alarm?

Smoke Alarms (also commonly known as Smoke Detectors) are life-saving devices that detect smoke well before any sleeping occupant would, and provide critical time to implement actions that would save your life as well as your property.

With differing and evolving legislation across the country, it can be hard to get your head around all the rules and regulations, especially if you have multiple properties across states. One of the common questions that we see from landlords is, what is my responsibility as a landlord and how does that differ from the responsibility of my tenant? We explore both below.

 

What are the Responsibilities of the Landlord for Smoke Alarms in a property?

As a landlord, there are a few common things that are important to know to ensure your property is compliant:

  • To ensure that a property is fitted with the correct fire alarms and that they are placed in appropriate and effective locations, on every level of a property, near or in every bedroom.
  • To ensure that alarms are inspected every year, and replaced every 10 years. As the rules vary between the states, it is important to understand what needs replacing and that it complies with local regulations.
  • To clarify to their tenant how each smoke alarm works and how to test them.

 

What are the Responsibilities of the Tenant for Smoke Alarms in a property?

The tenants’ responsibilities sit mainly around notifying the landlord if there is something wrong and ensuring that they are not tampering with the equipment: 

  • Ensure the alarms are in working order
  • Clean the alarms at least once a year
  • Allow an inspection by a licensed professional when one is due
  • Not to tamper with the alarms on the property
  • Notify the Landlord/Property Manager immediately if one appears to be non-functional 
  • Inform the Landlord if they change a battery or engage with a licensed electrician

 

What do you need to consider before installing a Smoke Alarm?

  • Avoid installing smoke alarms near windows, doors, fans or air-conditioners. Excessive air movement may prevent smoke and gases from reaching the smoke alarm or cause nuisance alarms.
  • Accidental alarms can be a nuisance and become dangerous if homeowners remove the alarm batteries or disable an interconnected system to silence the alarm. Nuisance alarms can be avoided by not placing alarms in or near kitchens where cooking smoke can set them off, or in or near bathrooms where steam often causes accidental alarms.
  • Though the regulations differ through the states and territories, it is widely preferred to have hard-wired smoke detectors with backup batteries that are interconnected throughout the property (these are mandatory under some legislations). This ensures the highest safety standards for the tenants and the property.

 

You can find a short state-by-state guide below.

 

What are the rules for Smoke Alarms in NSW?

In New South Wales, the law does not specify the type of alarms allowed and there are no rules regarding interconnectivity. There are guidelines on when alarms must be inspected and by who, and when they need to be replaced.  

Where a smoke alarm is not in working order, landlords must ensure that it’s repaired (this includes replacing a battery) within 2 business days.

You can find more information here

 

What are the rules for Smoke Alarms in QLD?

In Queensland, it is the law from 1 January 2022, that landlords must install interconnected smoke alarms in residential rental properties. Additionally, existing smoke alarms manufactured more than 10 years ago, as well as any smoke alarms that do not operate when tested must be replaced with photoelectric smoke alarms that comply with the Australian standard.

Queensland also goes further to specify where alarms cannot be placed:  

  • 300mm of a corner of a ceiling and a wall
  • 300mm of a light fitting
  • 400mm of an air-conditioning vent
  • 400mm of the blades of a ceiling fan.

You can find more information here

 

What are the rules for Smoke Alarms in VIC?

Under Victorian law, all buildings built after 1 August 1997 must have hard-wired smoke alarms with a battery backup. Buildings built before that date can have a battery-powered smoke alarm. In addition, all issues relating to smoke alarms in a tenancy fall under the criteria of urgent repair, and not addressing them immediately can result in a fine for a landlord.

You can find more information here 

 

What are the rules for Smoke Alarms in TAS?

Under Tasmanian law, From 1 May 2016, all smoke alarms in rental properties are required by law to be either mains powered or have a 10-year non-removable battery. In addition, Tasmania specifies that smoke alarms must be placed in all hallways as well as at the top of all stairways.

The tenant and the property owner share the responsibility to ensure alarms work. 

You can find more information here and here

 

What are the rules for Smoke Alarms in the ACT?

In the ACT, there is no law in regards to the type of alarm however, if you have an ionisation smoke alarm that is approaching its expiry date (usually 10 years) or it has become faulty, ACT Fire & Rescue encourages you to replace it with a hard-wired, interconnected photoelectric smoke alarm.

ACT Fire & Rescue also states that smoke alarms should be tested on a monthly basis, and cleaned every 6 months, as opposed to the more popular yearly check-ins in other States & Territories.

You can find more information here

 

What are the rules for Smoke Alarms in WA?

In WA, it is mandatory for all new residential buildings (or residential building extensions) from 1 October 2009 to be fitted with hard-wired smoke alarms prior to the transfer of ownership or rent. 

If your home was newly built after 1 May 2015, alarms must also be interconnected. There are rare cases where Lithium (Non-removable batteries may be used):

  • Mains power is not connected to the dwelling, where there is no hidden space to run the necessary wiring for hard-wired alarms,
  • There is no appropriate alternative location – for example, where there is a concrete ceiling. 

The use of battery-operated alarms for any other circumstance must be approved by the local government.

In properties that are smaller, such as studios/guest houses/boarding houses/granny flats, there is a requirement to have alarms in every bedroom, in hallways and in areas near bedrooms, and have lighting incorporated with the alarm for people to evacuate safely.

You can find more information here

 

What are the rules for Smoke Alarms in SA?

The rules regarding the type of alarm in South Australia vary based on the date the property was purchased. Properties purchased before 1 February 1998, are allowed to have replaceable battery (like alkaline batteries) operated smoke alarms, while properties purchased after that date, must have either hard wired or non-replaceable battery-powered alarms. If the property was built after 1 January 1995, the property is required to have hard-wired alarms.

Properties built after 1 May 2014 are also required to have interconnected alarms throughout the property.

You can find more information here

 

What are the rules for Smoke Alarms in the NT?

In the Northern Territory, it is a requirement for the tenants to test the alarms in a property at least once a year. Photoelectric alarms are favoured, although If ionisation alarms have been installed, you do not have to replace them with hardwired photoelectric alarms until:

  • The ionisation alarm ceases to function
  • The premises is sold or rented
  • A tenancy agreement for the premises is renewed or extended
  • A hire agreement for the premises is entered into, renewed or extended

You can find more information here

 

That’s a lot of information! 

But it’s good to be informed. it’ll be a lot easier in the long run, both for your mind and pocket – it’s worth getting the safety nailed the first time around. 

At RentBetter we believe that self-managing your property should be easy. If you take the right steps and make well-informed decisions, you’ll be in the best position possible for a lifetime of success with your investment. 

We want to help guide you through your journey, so if you’d like to know more, get in touch with our friendly team to find out how you can benefit from our products to make self-management a breeze! 

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