Smoke Detectors

Let’s talk about smoke detectors. As conscientious landlords you already knew that all residential properties require hard-wired smoke detectors. Battery-operated smoke alarms are not sufficient; although there are some specific exemptions for the use of long-life battery alarms where properties do not have ceiling access. The hard-wired smoke detector requirements have been law since 1 October 2009; and all your properties should comply. If you lease a property without complying smoke detectors, you are taking a great risk if a tenant should be injured or killed in a fire; not to mention possibly jeopardizing any insurance claim. You probably also knew that if your house was larger than a 3×1, you likely need 2 or more hard-wired smoke alarms. I find the legislation vague on how many are required for a specific-sized house, and leave it up to the experts to determine when they are on-site at a property. Because you manage your properties carefully, you likely also know that hard-wired smoke alarms have a 10-year life; which means that they need replacing every 10 years. If your properties are 10 years or older, make sure you check the expiry date which will be displayed on the smoke detector. As a proactive landlord, you carry a tool box and common spare parts in your car, which include a new 9V battery. You certainly make sure that you replace the smoke alarm backup battery on the 1st of April every year; which is why you also put a step-ladder in your car around that time. With the eagle eye of Sherlock Holmes, you inspect your properties regularly (although for routine inspections not more than 4 times in any 12 month period – s 46(3) of the RTA). If you notice a smoke alarm and it’s green light is not on, or it’s lid is open, you investigate further. If the tenants says “Oh, we open it because it goes off all the time” you do NOT say “Okay”, instead you arrange for an electrician to repair or replace the unit. Since you monitor the media, you are aware that the 2014 edition of the Building Code of Australia now requires that smoke alarms are interconnected within a property. Fortunately there is no requirement to retro-fit older houses at this stage, but give it time! Buildings approved for construction from 1 May 2015 onwards must have interconnected smoke detectors before renting or selling. There are companies that specialize in smoke detector checking, they could be a worthwhile investment. Alternatively, what I do is whenever I have an electrician attend one of my properties for a repair job, I get them to check both the electrical safety switches and hard-wired smoke detectors and issue me a fresh Electrical Safety Certificate confirming the safe operation of these devices. Smoke safely and sleep soundly.