17 May 2019

Winter is coming: are your properties smoke alarm safe?

With winter coming up fast, it is time to turn on heaters and put the electric blanket on high to stave off the cold. However, with every additional mod-con turned on, the chances of a home fire increase. In fact, home fires are more likely in winter than summer.

Working smoke alarms provide early warning and give the best opportunity to save lives and reduce the risk to property. For landlords there is a responsibility to ensure that all rental properties have working smoke alarms and it is important that smoke alarms are checked regularly and maintained.

Some (smoke) alarming facts

Did you know you are twice as likely to fall victim to a house fire if the property does not have a working smoke alarm?

Data collected between 2016 and 2018 shows that 53 per cent of properties across Australia were found non-compliant to their state's smoke alarm legislation standards upon first inspection.

Of these properties, 56 per cent of houses and 50 per cent of units were found non-compliant. This means one in two rental properties does not have a working smoke alarm and, therefore, one in two managing agents and landlords have not met their duty of care.

These statistics represent the risk posed to your portfolio if smoke alarms are not maintained.

Who is responsible?

One of the most common questions asked in relation to smoke alarm maintenance is "What is my duty of care?" and the answer is simple.

Rental properties must be compliant to the relevant legislation and it is the landlord who is held accountable through their duty of tenant care. Legislation in NSW requires landlords to install, test and maintain smoke alarms in rental properties annually, and:

  • At the commencement of any new tenancy agreement
  • Annually (as per the manufacturer's warranty)
  • At alarm malfunction

It is the property manager's responsibility, however, to ensure their landlords are sufficiently informed and that the obligation to maintain smoke alarms is fulfilled. While you are not legally required to have smoke alarms serviced by a professional company, you are responsible for ensuring smoke alarms are functioning correctly at the commencement of every tenancy. 

What can you do to minimise risk?

As a property manager, you should educate landlords on their duty of care and the steps to take to ensure rental properties are compliant to state legislation. You can educate tenants on safe use of heaters and other household appliances, the dangers of leaving open flames unattended and the importance of replacing devices with exposed wiring.

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