Who maintains smoke alarms in NSW strata units?

A working smoke alarm is critical for the early detection of a fire in your home and could mean the difference between life and death. According to NSW Fire & Rescue, you’re twice as likely to die in a home fire if you don’t have a working fire alarm, with the majority of household fires starting in the kitchen due to unattended cooking.

As of 23 March 2020, NSW landlords and agents are required to check that smoke alarms installed in strata rental units are working correctly and are properly maintained. Improperly maintained smoke alarms not only put the lives of tenants at risk, it also endangers all other tenants in the strata building.

So, who is responsible for maintaining and fixing smoke alarms in NSW strata properties? We take a closer look below.

Tenant requirements for smoke alarms

For individual lots and units, it is up to the owner of the property to install, replace and maintain smoke alarms. They are also responsible for replacing batteries and testing the alarm at least once a year.

Rental tenants must notify their landlord or agent if they find their smoke alarm is not working. This is also the case when the battery needs changing or when a licensed electrician is engaged to repair or replace the alarm.

The Owners Corporation is responsible for maintaining and testing the smoke alarm is when the smoke alarm is common property and is on the annual fire safety schedule for the building. This is done annually as part of the fire certification process.

It is required by law that at least one smoke alarm is installed within the hallway outside a bedroom and between kitchen and the bedroom(s), or other suitable location in each storey of the unit. It is also prohibited to remove or tamper with a smoke alarm, unless there is a valid reason.

Individual lot owners who fail to replace their smoke alarm after the use by date has passed does not affect the Owners Corporation’s strata insurance as it is the lot owner’s responsibility. The Owners Corporation would still be compliant with the Environmental Planning and Assessment Regulations.

Landlord and Agent Responsibilities for smoke alarms

When a smoke alarm is not fully working, the landlord or agent must ensure the alarm is repaired within two business days, which also includes replacing a battery. They must also check every year that smoke alarms are working. It is also their responsibility to ensure smoke alarms are replaced within 10 years of manufacture, or earlier if specified by the manufacturer, whilst batteries are installed or replaced annually (or in the period specified by the manufacturer for lithium batteries).

To inspect or assess whether a smoke alarm needs repairing or replacing, landlords and agents must give tenants at least two business days’ notice and at least one hour notice to conduct the smoke alarm repair or replacement.

Owners Corporation’s requirements for smoke alarms

It is the responsibility of the Owners Corporation to install, replace and maintain all smoke alarms within the building’s common areas.

Batteries should be tested regularly, whilst the whole smoke alarm should be replaced every ten years. This is because smoke alarms have a ‘use by date’ so it is important that these are replaced before this date ends to make sure your property and tenants are kept safe.

Installation and placement of fire alarms within the building should also comply with Environmental Planning and Assessment Regulations. The smoke alarm should also be connected to the electric mains or have a non-removal battery with a ten-year life expectancy.

What causes fires in residential buildings?

According to NSW Fire & Rescue, one of the most common causes of fires in residential households is unattended cooking in the kitchen. Heaters, cigarettes and candles are also common causes of fire, whilst electric appliances and faults account for approximately 40% of domestic fires.

How to test smoke alarms

Testing a smoke alarm is very easy. Simply press the test button to check the alarm and battery are working. If there is a power light, this should also constantly show. If there is no loud beep, then it might be time to replace the battery. The same applies to a smoke alarm that regularly beeps, which might be a sign your battery needs changing.

How to prevent a false alarm?

Sometimes dust or dirt particles can get inside a smoke alarm and set off a false alarm. Steam from cooking or a shower can also be the culprit as can smoke from a BBQ. Try to keep doors or windows open or turn on the extractor fan.

5 reasons why you should have a fully functioning smoke alarm installed

  1. It provides early detection of a potential fire before it does serious damage
  2. It alerts other residents of danger and to evacuate the building
  3. Most fires occur at night and many people are unable to smell smoke whilst asleep
  4. Most fire related deaths are caused by smoke inhalation as opposed to burns from the flames
  5. It could save your life

To keep your strata building and tenants safe, regularly check your smoke alarms all year round.

Get in touch

Want to learn more about smoke alarms in your strata property? Contact the friendly team at The Strata Collective today.

The Strata Collective

Level 9, 387 George St
Sydney, NSW 2000

Ph: 02 9137 2320

Strata Community Australia Member

Winner of the
SCA NSW Strata Community Awards 2020
Medium Category

Congratulations to The Strata Collective and Principal, Rod Smith for winning such a prestigious award.

See the full story and photos here.

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