Smoke alarms are the most important residential fire safety device and not meeting all smoke alarm compliance requirements can have serious consequences for landlords, tenants and property managers.
A study published in a report by Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC in August 2019, found that ‘at least 900 people have died in preventable residential fires in Australia from July 2003 to June 2017, averaging…more than one preventable residential fire death every week’.
Furthermore, the ABS reported that of the 8,000+ house fires in NSW in 1997 and 1998, main causes included central heating systems (eg: heating units, water heaters), electrical distribution equipment (eg: wiring, meters, switches, cords, plugs) and appliances (eg: dryers, washing machines, ceiling and exhaust fans, dishwashers).
Are Smoke Alarms An Urgent Repair?
In response to this high number of incidents, the NSW government made the repair of a smoke alarm an urgent repair. This is reflected in the Residential Tenancies Regulations 2019 (NSW), which requires that the repair is taken out within two business days of it being notified. If the repair is not carried out within that time period, the tenant is given the authority to make the repairs and be reimbursed by the landlord. In all cases, the smoke alarm must be checked by a qualified person.
How Do I Know My Smoke Alarms Comply?
Environmental Planning and Assessment Regulation 2000 (NSW) requires that smoke alarms comply with Australian Standard AS 3786 and has requirements around their installation. This includes their installation on any storey containing bedrooms. Ask your property manager if you have any concerns.
Who Is Responsible?
You, as the property owner, has the responsibility for ensuring that smoke alarms are installed and maintained on the residential premises. You can engage your agent to act on your behalf. In either case, failure to satisfy the smoke alarm compliance obligation could have disastrous consequences including loss of life, negligence claims and potential litigation.
The Residential Tenancies Act 2010 (NSW) imposes a legal obligation on all landlords in NSW to ensure that smoke alarms are to be checked by a qualified person to ensure they are working prior to the commencement of a new tenancy and they are regularly maintained and working for the duration of the tenancy.
Penalties of up to $2,200 are now being enforced for failure to adhere to legislation.
The new section 31A of the Residential Tenancies Act 2021 (NSW) prevents a landlord entering into a residential tenancy agreement unless the landlord has confirmed that they have read and understood the contents of the ‘Landlord Information Statement’ that sets out the landlord’s rights and obligations under the lease. This includes that the property is in a reasonable state of repair, structurally sound and has working smoke alarms.
The Ingoing Condition Report provided as part of a new tenancy 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. The landlord must also check the smoke alarms annually.
What If I Have Landlord Insurance?
Your landlord insurance policy may also be affected by not having compliant smoke detectors. For example, an insurer may only quote subject to their being smoke detectors installed, so if you haven’t, then you may have given the insurer an opportunity to avoid a claim under the Insurance Contract Act. Check your insurance policy document.
How Do I Protect Myself?
We strongly recommend that all landlords protect themselves as much as humanly possible against all foreseeable events with their tenants and investment properties…and that includes fire. No-one wants to be responsible for serious injury or death from faulty smoke alarms that didn't activate.
The solution is to use an accredited supplier to carry out an inspection of your investment property’s smoke alarms prior to the new tenancy and then annually thereafter. Accredited suppliers like Property Services 360 offer further protection by providing an ‘Electrical Safety Test' of the property’s electrical system at the same time. The benefit to the landlord is that this is a more comprehensive safety offering at a more cost effective rate. From a liability perspective, it provides a more detailed documentary evidence on file should a fire event arise in your property that could potentially lead to a liability issue for you.
Like To Learn More?
If you are unsure if your investment property in NSW is smoke alarm compliant, contact your property manager or our team of specialists today.