Having a working smoke alarm is crucial for detecting fires early in your home, potentially saving lives. According to NSW Fire & Rescue, the absence of a functioning fire alarm doubles the risk of death in a house fire, with most residential fires starting in the kitchen due to unattended cooking.
Since March 23, 2020, it has been mandatory for landlords and agents in NSW to ensure that smoke alarms in strata rental units are in proper working condition and well-maintained. Neglecting the maintenance of smoke alarms not only jeopardizes the lives of tenants but also endangers other occupants in the strata building.
So, who is responsible for maintaining and repairing smoke alarms in NSW strata properties? Let’s delve into the details.
Tenant obligations for smoke alarms:
For individual lots and units, property owners are responsible for installing, replacing, and maintaining smoke alarms. They should also replace batteries and test the alarms at least once a year.
Rental tenants must promptly inform their landlord or agent if they discover a malfunctioning smoke alarm. This includes cases where the battery needs replacement or when a licensed electrician is required to repair or replace the alarm.
The Owners Corporation’s role:
The Owners Corporation is accountable for maintaining and testing smoke alarms classified as common property, listed on the annual fire safety schedule for the building. This process is conducted annually as part of the fire certification procedure.
By law, at least one smoke alarm must be installed in the hallway outside a bedroom and between the kitchen and the bedroom(s), or in another suitable location on each floor of the unit. Removal or tampering with a smoke alarm is prohibited unless there is a valid reason.
Failure by individual lot owners to replace smoke alarms after their designated expiration date does not affect the strata insurance of the Owners Corporation, as it is the lot owner’s responsibility. The Owners Corporation would still comply with the Environmental Planning and Assessment Regulations.
Landlord and Agent responsibilities for smoke alarms:
When a smoke alarm is not functioning correctly, landlords or agents must ensure that it is repaired within two business days, including battery replacement. They must also annually check the functionality of smoke alarms. It is their duty to replace smoke alarms within ten years from the manufacturing date or earlier if specified by the manufacturer. Additionally, batteries should be installed or replaced annually, or as specified by the manufacturer for lithium batteries.
To inspect or assess whether a smoke alarm requires repair or replacement, landlords and agents must provide tenants with a minimum of two business days’ notice and at least one hour’s notice for conducting the repair or replacement.
Owners Corporation requirements for smoke alarms:
The responsibility for installing, replacing, and maintaining all smoke alarms within the building’s common areas lies with the Owners Corporation.
Batteries should be regularly tested, and the entire smoke alarm unit should be replaced every ten years. This is because smoke alarms have a designated “use by” date, and it is essential to replace them before that date to ensure the safety of your property and tenants.
The installation and placement of fire alarms within the building should also adhere to the Environmental Planning and Assessment Regulations. The smoke alarm should be connected to the electric mains or have a non-removable battery with a ten-year life expectancy.
Causes of fires in residential buildings:
According to NSW Fire & Rescue, unattended cooking in the kitchen is one of the leading causes of residential fires. Additionally, heaters, cigarettes, candles, electric appliances, and faults account for approximately 40% of domestic fires.
Testing smoke alarms:
Testing a smoke alarm is simple. Press the test button to ensure the alarm and battery are functioning properly. If there is a power light, it should remain illuminated. If you do not hear a loud beep, it may be time to replace the battery. The same applies if the smoke alarm emits regular beeps.