Updated: NSW Smoke Alarm Regulations

Did you know that you’re twice as likely to die in a house fire if you don’t have a working smoke alarm installed? It seems crazy when you consider that smoke alarms are readily available at stores like Officeworks and Bunnings and can cost as little as $20.00. 

Crazier still is that more than 18 people in Australia die each year because the battery in their smoke alarm was either flat or missing. A replacement battery costs around $3.00 and installing it often takes less than 30 seconds. So how do we help change people’s awareness and habits about smoke alarms?  

By making it as simple as possible.

Most of the time we’re not thinking about these passive little devices that silently hang from the ceiling, standing sentry whilst we go about our busy lives. In fact, in a home environment we usually only think about smoke detectors when they either sound the alarm to signal smoke or, more commonly, when they start beeping intermittently to warn us that the battery is getting low.

Actually, it’s the latter circumstance that often leads to a compromise of smoke detectors. Why? Because people often simply remove the battery to stop the intermittent beeping which, let’s face it, is irritating.

But here’s the thing. It’s designed to be irritating – it’s a ‘nagometer’! It’s intended to prompt us to replace the battery so that the little life-saving device can continue on with its important work.  

And not only are you risking the lives of all occupants in the property by not ensuring the smoke alarms are working properly; you’re also not complying with NSW Environmental Planning Regulations. These state that since 1st May 2006, ALL buildings where people sleep must have smoke alarms installed.

So it’s not just commercial properties that are required to have smoke alarms installed, it’s private, residential homes as well. As it’s such an important topic NSW Fire & Rescue also provides guidance for homeowners, tenants, and landlords on this subject too.

Importantly, there was an update to the NSW Residential Tenancy Regulations on the 23rd March 2020 that increased the responsibilities for both property managers and landlords in relation to the scheduled testing and maintenance of smoke alarms.

What are the updated Property Manager and Landlord Responsibilities?

We’ve compiled a summary of the updates to help you navigate the legislation and ensure you’re compliant. Property managers/landlords must:

  • ensure installed smoke alarms are checked at least once per annum
  • ensure the smoke alarms are replaced within 10 years of manufacture, or earlier if specified by the manufacturer
  • ensure batteries are installed and replaced annually
  • give at least two business days’ notice to inspect smoke alarms and one hours notice to complete the replacement or repair

So those are the minimum requirements that must be adhered to in terms of scheduled, annual responsibilities. But what if something goes wrong in between these scheduled activities?

The following summary is a guide for tenant and landlord responsibilities under the new regulations:

  • a tenant is required to notify their property manager or landlord if a smoke alarm is not working or needs a battery replacing
  • property managers and landlords are responsible to ensure the urgent repair of smoke alarms (which includes battery replacement) within two business days of being notified by the tenant
  • tenants may be allowed to replace alarms or batteries so long as it is done in accordance with the respective manufacturers instructions
  • tenants may engage a licensed electrician to perform the work if the property manager or landlord has not arranged to restore the smoke alarm(s) to working order within two business days*

*It should be noted that the regulations can get quite complicated around the subject of strata or none strata premises so if there’s any doubt you can get in touch with our team who will be able to clarify your requirements.

So the requirements are really not that demanding and, as we’ve already agreed, smoke alarms are not expensive to purchase or maintain. One trick we recommend (and use ourselves) is to add a recurring calendar reminder. 

Whatever device you’re reading this on likely means that you have access to a digital calendar i.e. you can do this too. Whether it’s Google, Apple or Microsoft, you can set a reminder that pops up every year and never worry about ‘forgetting’ again! 

Or you can simply get in touch with our team and we’ll do the heavy lighting for you so that you can just get on with life and sleep at night knowing that you and your family are safe.

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