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Smoke Alarms in Rental Properties: Are You a Compliant Landlord?

house smoke alarm

Evolving smoke alarm regulations only add to the property management burden.

They carry a cost implication and come with additional management responsibilities.

While a tad inconvenient, these changing laws have your best interests at heart.

In 2014, property owners incurred losses amounting to $135 million from smoke and fire damage. Commercial landlords suffered losses of more than $700 million.

Complying with smoke alarm regulations keeps you from adding to these scary statistics.

In-depth insights into smoke alarm regulations let you protect your investment and ensure you never run afoul of the law.

Here’s a detailed breakdown of smoke alarm regulations in all states in Australia to ensure you’re a compliant landlord.

Fire Alarm Regulations in the Different Australian States

New South Wales

The Environmental Planning and Assessment Regulation 2000 requires that residential houses are fitted with AS 3786 smoke alarms.

You can install a 240-V smoke alarm that’s hard-wired to the power mains or a battery-operated smoke alarm.

Installation: You should install interconnected alarms between the bedrooms and the rest of the house, in corridors connecting bedrooms, and at every level in a storey house.

Maintenance: Tenants must test the smoke alarm’s batteries monthly by long-pressing the test button until the unit beeps, as well as dust the unit every six months.

The tenant is responsible for replacing the batteries in battery-powered smoke alarms once the tenancy begins.

However, it’s your responsibility to replace the backup batteries in hard-wired smoke alarms.

You must replace the 10-year smoke alarms with a similar model when they expire.

Queensland

As of 2017, the law requires all smoke alarms to be photoelectric and comply with AS 3786- 2014, as well as be less than 10 years old.

You can install a minimum of a 9-volt battery-operated alarm in residential dwellings.

However, a 240-volt alarm that is hardwired to the mains or a non-removable 10-year battery smoke alarm is the best.

Installation: You must install and interconnect smoke alarms in all bedrooms, corridors that connect the bedrooms, and on all levels in a high-rise.

Maintenance: You must clean and test each smoke alarm and replace flat batteries on your premises within 30 days before a new tenant moves in.

Tenants must test and clean the smoke alarm once every 12 years.

Once a 10-year smoke alarm expires, you must replace it with a photoelectric alarm.

Northern Territory

A 2011 amendment to the Fire and Emergency Regulations requires that all residential properties have working smoke alarms.

You can install a hardwired 240-volt photoelectric smoke alarm with a 9-volt back-up battery or a photoelectric smoke alarm with an inbuilt 10-year lithium battery.

Installation: You should install smoke alarms on the ceiling of the areas between the bedrooms and the rest of the house, or inside the bedrooms if the tenants sleep with the door closed.

Maintenance: Tenants must test and clean the smoke alarms in their premises at least once every year, and notify the landlord if they are faulty.

Landlords are responsible for the maintenance and repair of hardwired smoke alarms.

Tasmania

The state requires landlords to install interconnected smoke alarms in all rental properties.

You can install smoke alarms powered by a non-removable 10-year battery or powered by mains as long as they comply with Australian Standards:

  • AS 3786 – 2014 Photoreceptive or ionisation smoke alarms
  • AS 1670.1 – 2015 Fire warning, control, detection, and intercom systems.

Installation: Smoke alarm installation is specific to the class of the building:

  • Class 1a buildings: On corridors leading to the bedrooms and on every level of the house.
  • Class 1b dwellings: In every bedroom and corridors leading to the bedrooms and on all levels of the building.
  • Class 2, 3, and 4 buildings: In every bedroom and corridor leading to the bedrooms, every building level, and along the exit paths.

Maintenance: The tenant must test the alarms monthly, dust them once every six months, and replace the batteries once they run flat.

You must repair faulty alarms, replace 10-year smoke alarms when they expire, and replace the backup batteries in mains-powered alarms.

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Australian Capital Territory

The Residential Tenancies Act 1997 requires landlords to install AS 3786-compliant smoke alarms in rental properties and comply with the Building Code of Australia 3.7.2.

The state recommends photoelectric smoke alarms hardwired to the power mains or the 10-year smoke alarms with a non-removable battery.

  • However, you can outfit homes built before 1994 with a 9-volt battery-operated alarm.
  • Homes built after 1994 must have a 240-v alarm hardwired into the mains.

Installation: You must install interconnected smoke alarms inside the bedrooms or the corridors leading to the bedrooms and on every level in a storey building.

Maintenance: The tenant should replace the batteries in battery-operated alarms every 12 months throughout their tenancy.

They should clean and vacuum the smoke alarms at least once every six months.

Landlords are responsible for replacing the backup batteries in a hardwired alarm system and replacing the 10-year old smoke alarms when they expire.

Western Australia

Western Australia’s Building Regulations require landlords to outfit their premises with smoke alarms that comply with Australian standards AS 3786.

The smoke alarms should be hardwired to the mains power supply, interconnected, and less than 10 years old.

You can also install battery-powered smoke alarms if the building isn’t connected to the power mains.

However, the battery-powered alarms must have a non-removable battery with a 10-year lifespan.

Installation: The location of the smoke alarms depends on the class of the building:

  • Class 1a dwellings: You should install the smoke alarms in hallways serving the bedrooms, and between the bedrooms as well as the rest of the house.
  • Class 1b dwellings: You must install smoke alarms in each bedroom, an area between the bedrooms, and the rest of the property.

Maintenance: Tenants must run a monthly test and inform the landlord if there’s a faulty unit.

They should clean the alarms at least once every six months and change the batteries when they run flat.

The landlord needs to handle the repair and replace faulty units as soon as the tenant notifies them.

Victoria

Tenancy laws require landlords to fit rental units with smoke alarms that comply with Australian Standards AS 3786.

  • Houses built before 1 August, 1997 should be fitted with 9-volt battery-powered smoke alarms.
  • Homes built after 1 August, 1997 must be installed with 240-volt smoke alarms hard-powered to the mains and must have a backup battery.
  • Smoke alarms in homes built after 1 May, 2014 must be interconnected so they activate simultaneously.

Installation: You should install a smoke alarm between each bedroom area and the rest of the house, inside the bedroom if tenants sleep with the doors closed, and on each level of the house.

Maintenance: Tenants must test the smoke alarms monthly by long-pressing the test button until the alarm emits three beeps.

They should also clean around the smoke alarm covers at least once a year.

Landlords must replace the batteries in 9-volt battery-powered smoke alarms yearly as well as the 10-year battery-powered smoke alarms once they expire.

South Australia

The Development Act 1993 requires each residential property to be fitted with a smoke alarm.

The type of smoke alarm to install in a residential rental property depends on the age or when you bought it:

  • Replaceable battery-powered smoke alarms for properties acquired before 1 February, 1998
  • A 240-volt smoke alarm powered by mains or a non-replaceable battery-powered smoke alarm with a 10-year lifespan for properties acquired after 1 February, 1998. 
  • A 240-V mains powered smoke alarm for properties built on or after 1 January, 1995.

Installation: Smoke alarms must be installed in hallways leading to bedrooms, between the bedrooms and the rest of the house, and at each level in a storey building.

Maintenance: It’s your duty as a landlord to install, test, repair and replace faulty smoke alarms unless otherwise stated in the rental agreement.

Safeguard Your Property Against Fire Damage

Non-compliance with smoke alarm regulations can result in fines as high as $5,000.

Thanks to property management solutions such as Lodge, you don’t have to worry about incurring such unnecessary expenses.  

Lodge lets you automate the entire smoke alarm compliance process, reducing it to a few clicks of a button.

You can send automated smoke alarm testing and maintenance reminders and have tenants report back to you within its communication system.

Lodge notifies you of pending maintenance calls and helps you schedule a maintenance run, all in a few clicks.

By automating the documentation process, Lodge lets you handle new smoke regulations without breaking a sweat.

Try Lodge today.

Photo: Your Best Digs