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NSW Smoke Alarms - Its the law

Fact

Smoke alarms are life-saving devices that detect smoke well before any sleeping occupant would and provide critical seconds to implement actions to save life and property. Under Clause 146A of the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979, and Division 7A of Part 9 of the Environmental Planning and Assessment Regulation 2000, at least one working smoke alarm must be installed on each level in all buildings in NSW where people sleep. The smoke alarms must meet the requirements of Australian Standard AS 3786. These provisions came into effect on 1 May 2006. A person who does not comply with the legislation is guilty of an offence (maximum penalty $550).

The legislation provides for a minimum level of protection. Fire & Rescue NSW supports this legislation and recommends that owners and occupants consider higher levels of protection than the minimum requirements.

For homeowners

It’s the law to have at least one working smoke alarm installed on every level of your home. This includes owner occupied homes, rental properties, relocatable homes, caravans and camper-vans or any other residential building where people sleep. It’s up to you to protect your family and your home.

For tenants

Your landlord is responsible for ensuring your residency meets the minimal requirements of having at least one working smoke alarm installed on every level of your home. Landlords are responsible for the installation of smoke alarms in rented premises. Landlords have the right of access to rented premises to fit smoke alarms after giving the tenant at least two day’s notice.

After the tenancy begins, the tenant is responsible for replacing the battery if needed in batteryoperated smoke alarms. Hard-wired smoke alarm back-up batteries are to be replaced by the landlord. If the tenant is physically unable to change the battery the tenant is required to notify the landlord as soon as practicable.

For landlords

Neither the landlord nor the tenant are, except with reasonable excuse, permitted to remove or interfere with the operation of a smoke alarm fitted in the rented premises.

Where a smoke alarm is of the type that has a replaceable battery, the landlord must put a new battery in at the commencement of a tenancy. After the tenancy begins, the tenant is responsible for replacing  the battery if needed. However, if the tenant is physically unable to change the battery the tenant is required to notify the landlord as soon as practicable after becoming aware of the need for it to be replaced. The tenant is not responsible for the replacement of batteries in ‘hard-wired’ smoke alarm systems that have battery back-up. This is the responsibility of the landlord.

The condition report section of the tenancy agreement must include a specific reference to smoke alarms so that tenants and landlords are able to note and comment on the presence of smoke alarms at the beginning and end of the tenancy.

Owners of residential properties who rent out their premises as holiday accommodation are responsible for installing smoke alarms and replacing batteries.

Other laws apply to boarding houses and backpackers.

For caravans and motorhomes

Caravans and campervans have limited escape options in fire events. You have just a few seconds to get out of a burning caravan, because they are made of lightweight and highly combustible fittings and fires can take off frighteningly fast. So the warning a smoke alarm gives can mean the difference between life and death.

You must have at least one working smoke alarm with a “hush” button allowing the occupant to silence the alarm for ten minutes inside the van where the bed is, and one also in the annex if you sleep there.

REMEMBER

144 deaths occurred in house fires across NSW between 2000 and June 2005. Based on FRNSW Fire Investigation and Research Unit case study research, one third to a half of those fatalities may have been prevented if the homes had working smoke alarms and had a practised home escape plan.

Any alarms installed after 1 May 2006 must comply with AS3786.

Residential accommodation requiring smoke alarms;

These types of Residential accommodation require smoke alarms; detached houses, terrace houses, town houses, villa units (Class 1a buildings), apartments, home units, flats (Class 2 buildings), caretakers flats, single residences above shops (Class 4 parts of buildings), relocatable homes, e.g. manufactured homes and moveable dwellings.

Shared accommodation requiring smoke alarms;

Shared accommodation installation is also mandatory in small boarding houses, guest houses, hostels; backpackers accommodation; bed and breakfast accommodation (Class 1b buildings), large boarding houses, guest houses, hostels, backpacker accommodation; residential parts of hotels, motels, schools, health care buildings, detention centres; certain residential accommodation for the aged, children and people with disabilities (Class 3 buildings) and hospitals and nursing homes (Class 9a health care buildings).

Further information

For more information on the Regulations: