Smoke Alarms in Your Rental Properties – Your Obligations

You have lots of obligations and responsibilities as a landlord, but one of the most important is ensuring you install working smoke alarms in your properties. You must also ensure they are the right type of smoke alarm as well as ensuring you install them properly.

Doing so is a legal requirement which means you can be taken to a tenancy tribunal if you do not install smoke alarms. In one recent case, a landlord had to pay $2,000 in exemplary damages because he didn’t have smoke alarms installed. Fines for non-compliance can be as much as $4,000.

Your Legal and Moral Obligations

The legal requirement for installing smoke alarms comes from the Residential Tenancies Act. It says all landlords must provide accommodation to tenants that is warm, dry, and safe. By not installing smoke alarms, you will fail to meet the third obligation of providing a safe home for tenants and their families to live in.

The installation of smoke alarms is about more than a legal responsibility, however. This is because most people in New Zealand, including landlords, believe there is also a moral responsibility on all residential property owners to ensure they install working smoke alarms in the homes they rent out.

After all, research shows that 89 percent of domestic fires which result in a fatality are in rented properties.

It is an undeniable fact that smoke alarms save lives, so it is important your properties have them installed.

What is the Law?

What exactly does the law require you to do, though? Firstly, any property you rent must have at least one working smoke alarm on each level of the property.

In addition, there must be a smoke alarm either in every bedroom of the house or within three metres of each bedroom door. That means you are likely to need more than one smoke alarm on each level of the property if those levels have multiple bedrooms.

There are specific requirements regarding the type of smoke alarm you must install too. This includes:

  • It must be a photoelectric smoke alarm. Photoelectric smoke alarms are better at detecting smouldering fires and can alert those living in the home quicker. In addition, photoelectric smoke alarms generate fewer false alarms.
  • The smoke alarm must be hard-wired into the property’s electrics or it must have a battery with a usable life of eight or more years.
  • The smoke alarm must meet all international standards.

Also, you must fit the smoke alarm according to the instructions issued by the manufacturer.

You do not need to replace a smoke alarm at the start of a new tenancy, providing it works and is still within the expiry date of the manufacturer.

Tenant Responsibilities

Who is responsible for maintaining the smoke alarm during the tenancy? At the start of a new tenancy, you must ensure there are enough smoke alarms installed and you must ensure they are all in good working order.

Your tenants have responsibilities too. This includes:

  • Tenants cannot disconnect the smoke alarm or remove it
  • Tenants cannot damage the smoke alarm either
  • If the smoke alarm is battery-powered, it is the tenant’s responsibility to replace the batteries when they run out
  • The tenant is also responsible for reporting problems with the smoke alarm to you

The risks of not installing smoke alarms are too great, and the law is unambiguous. Therefore, the residential properties you rent must have smoke alarms.

For further questions & discussion, please contact Oaks Property Management Ltd at [email protected].