Pay for Smoke Alarm Maintenance & Inspection: Yay or Nay???

absolute waste of money $110 per year for them to go out and press the button!!

it would only be worth it if your smoke alarm malfunctioned 8 times per year

I just get my tradie to go down for $75 to simply take the old one out and put a new $8 bunnings one in!
 
Fair enough, but I wonder how many inspected homes would be compliant. The home I'm currently renting isn't; it doesn't have alarms in every bedroom.

Seems to be different recommendations for each state. So you might want to check yours for where you reside.

NSW says you don't need them in each bedroom.

http://www.fire.nsw.gov.au/page.php?id=443

and they wonder why we struggle to comply, there doesn't seem to be a national standard...
 
Prep, where can you show me in common law that a landlord/owner has been charged for smoke alarm installed different to stat law. Does stat law not become the law over common law?
 
Prep, where can you show me in common law that a landlord/owner has been charged for smoke alarm installed different to stat law. Does stat law not become the law over common law?
You won't get charged; you can only get charged for violation of statute.

Your common law duty in negligence is tested as per the questions I outlined, and there hasn't yet been a test case.

Statutory law prevails over common law where they contradict, but there is no statute that says that statutory compliance is a defence to an action in negligence under common law.

To use another example, let's say you have a car accident driving at 60 km/h, and you were driving way too fast for the conditions (say, driving around a corner in the rain). Saying "but I wasn't breaking the speed limit" isn't a defence if you're charged with negligent driving. The statute sets out the absolute minimum standard of care required, below which you can attract a punishment. (In this case, if you're driving above 60.) But just because you're not violating that statute, doesn't mean you have complete immunity to a charge of acting negligently.

If you don't have the records to prove you've tested alarms, you can be fined. Having done them doesn't mean that you've necessarily fulfilled your duty of care in a negligence action.
 
Prep, therefore if it stipulates in stat law that the tenant is responsible to ensure the smoke detector is working, during their lease and they change the battery, if not to contact the agent/owner. If the tenant doesn't then report faults who is liable? Therefore why does an owner have to pay $99 to have an inspection done each year?
 
Prep, therefore if it stipulates in stat law that the tenant is responsible to ensure the smoke detector is working, during their lease and they change the battery, if not to contact the agent/owner. If the tenant doesn't then report faults who is liable? Therefore why does an owner have to pay $99 to have an inspection done each year?
If a tenant doesn't report faults, the owner would almost certainly not be liable.

The owner doesn't "have to" pay for an inspection to be done, it's a matter of how willing they are to take the risk of being a defendant in a negligence action.

The main risks to a landlord in a negligence action when somebody has been injured or killed or lost property as a result of an IP fire are:

1) Whether the number, type, and location of alarms is correct. Most landlords aren't conscientious / aware enough of the factors influencing these to get it right on their own. (It's not rocket science, but a lot still get it wrong.)

2) Whether they get the testing and batteries right. It may seem simple, but...
a. What if the landlord accidentally uses the wrong type of battery (e.g. rechargeable vs non-rechargeable)?
b. What if the landlord thinks the test showed "working", but they actually just didn't understand how the alarm testing procedure worked, and the alarm had never worked?

3) Will the court accept a landlord's say-so that they did the test and changed the battery as sufficient evidence of same? (Getting a witness, taking photos, etc., are good protections against this particular risk.)

4) Even if the contract between landlord and tenant puts the onus on the tenant to test the alarms and check the batteries, there are a million reasons why a court might find that this wasn't viable / reasonable. e.g. High ceilings, elderly tenant, lack of making tenant aware how to test and that they had sole responsibility, etc etc.

I'm not saying it's fair, or that I can guarantee it would go one way or the other, I just want to highlight that it's not as simple as fulfilling your statutory obligations and that's the end of the matter.

There are a million reasons why a court might still find that a landlord was negligent.

Nearly all of those arguments would, I'm confident as a not-yet lawyer, be defeated in court by employing a third party to do the testing, because I believe a court would find that it's reasonable for a landlord to expect that paid professionals would do these things properly and advise of any problems with the location, type, number of alarms, etc. (Whether the third party actually does those things properly is a separate issue; in negligence, the landlord only has to show that their reliance on the third party was reasonable, and I can't imagine that such reliance would be deemed unreasonable.)
 
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absolute waste of money $110 per year for them to go out and press the button!!

That is NOT all that these companies do!

it would only be worth it if your smoke alarm malfunctioned 8 times per year

I just get my tradie to go down for $75 to simply take the old one out and put a new $8 bunnings one in!

You are paying your tradie (who will not be any help to you in a catastrophic event) more than we pay for a licenced and insured company to go into each house as many times as required through the year (3 times is not uncommon in some circumstances), install or swap out old alarms or reposition them.

I resisted paying for this for years, thought I was covered by scratching dates on the batteries, noting tests prior to leases on both lease and entry condition report, but we still got it wrong. We had alarms that were past their "use by" date and wrongly positioned ones. Would we have been sued if a fire happened and it was found we had not positioned the alarms correctly or they were out of date? I'm not prepared to find out.

Our houses have high ceilings which means me arranging to cart, or carting a ladder myself. I get to drag one up or down the stairs or arrange for hubby to do so.

This is just one time when I'm more than happy to outsource something that I can easily do, who is insured and knows what they are doing.

I still have to ensure checks are organised and done within 30 days prior to a new lease, but I do get reminders. I prefer to diarise it all myself just in case.
 
we no longer take on management with out the smoke alarm cover

$99pa and covers you for the year. we are finding that a lot of the alarms use by date have expired and need to be replaced and for the $99 they are covered.

agents cant do it as we are not covered under our insurance and owners say they will but most of the time don't.
 
1) Whether the number, type, and location of alarms is correct. Most landlords aren't conscientious / aware enough of the factors influencing these to get it right on their own. (It's not rocket science, but a lot still get it wrong.)

2) Whether they get the testing and batteries right. It may seem simple, but...
a. What if the landlord accidentally uses the wrong type of battery (e.g. rechargeable vs non-rechargeable)?
b. What if the landlord thinks the test showed "working", but they actually just didn't understand how the alarm testing procedure worked, and the alarm had never worked?

3) Will the court accept a landlord's say-so that they did the test and changed the battery as sufficient evidence of same? (Getting a witness, taking photos, etc., are good protections against this particular risk.)

4) Even if the contract between landlord and tenant puts the onus on the tenant to test the alarms and check the batteries, there are a million reasons why a court might find that this wasn't viable / reasonable. e.g. High ceilings, elderly tenant, lack of making tenant aware how to test and that they had sole responsibility, etc etc.

If the location and placement is wrong, regardless of whether some handyman came around and said it was OK (and that's what the smoke alarm firms are, BTW. Handymen) you are still potentially liable. You are required to know. The information is freely available and fully understandable by the common person in the street. It's not like having a job done by an electrical contractor or an engineer who has statutory authority, obligations and responsibilities in addition to recognised specialised knowledge. And I have had smoke alarm cos screw it up (admittedly not for a long time though.) Not to mention that these companies seem to change their business names every few years and don't tell you the name of the guy who did the job in most cases.

The tenant's obligation to properly maintain the smoke alarms, at least in Qld, is a statutory obligation (just as it is in an owner-occupied house) and not a matter of the contract. If the ceiling is too high for them then they have to get someone to do it for them and pay any costs associated. However, the LL's statutory obligation to clean and test within a month before the start of any tenancy or renewal of any lease shorter than a year and a day means that a tenant's statutory obligation boils down to not interfering with any smoke alarms.

Reason (3) is right on the money, and it is enough to sway me. Independent documented evidence that the job was done.
 
If the location and placement is wrong, regardless of whether some handyman came around and said it was OK (and that's what the smoke alarm firms are, BTW. Handymen) you are still potentially liable.

I will disagree with you on this point Morbius. The ones that I have dealt with to date use electricians. Do you seriously believe companies offering this service will undertake unauthorised electrical work? :eek:

Why? Hard wired appliances require a sparky to change them. If they're incorrectly located they will require relocation not the addition of a battery operated unit somewhere near the right spot.

The BCA directs the correct placement of the smokeys so placement can be confirmed.
 
If the location and placement is wrong, regardless of whether some handyman came around and said it was OK (and that's what the smoke alarm firms are, BTW. Handymen) you are still potentially liable.
Are you a lawyer? Are you suggesting that there is a non-delegable duty of care by landlord towards tenants, or are you suggesting that a court would find that employing a smoke alarm company was an unreasonable action by the landlord? :confused:
 
If the location and placement is wrong, regardless of whether some handyman came around and said it was OK (and that's what the smoke alarm firms are, BTW. Handymen) you are still potentially liable. You are required to know. The information is freely available and fully understandable by the common person in the street. It's not like having a job done by an electrical contractor or an engineer who has statutory authority, obligations and responsibilities in addition to recognised specialised knowledge. And I have had smoke alarm cos screw it up (admittedly not for a long time though.) Not to mention that these companies seem to change their business names every few years and don't tell you the name of the guy who did the job in most cases.

I believe there are technicians who do the checks, and in our case last week, we needed another alarm positioned as a room function had changed in our house. They sent back an electrician who checked all the alarms again. This happened in an IP last week too where we turned a garage into a bedroom and it then obviously needed an alarm.

We get full details, including full name of technician and/or electrician who attended.


Reason (3) is right on the money, and it is enough to sway me. Independent documented evidence that the job was done.

The documentation and added layer of protection for my butt, should anything go wrong, is worth the annual fee, for me anyway.
 
There are a million reasons why a court might still find that a landlord was negligent.

Nearly all of those arguments would, I'm confident as a not-yet lawyer, be defeated in court by employing a third party to do the testing, because I believe a court would find that it's reasonable for a landlord to expect that paid professionals would do these things properly and advise of any problems with the location, type, number of alarms, etc. (Whether the third party actually does those things properly is a separate issue; in negligence, the landlord only has to show that their reliance on the third party was reasonable, and I can't imagine that such reliance would be deemed unreasonable.)

So if the detector is passed and approved by a professional tester employed by the landlord, and it fails the next day and someone is burnt/injured, who is liable?
 
So if the detector is passed and approved by a professional tester employed by the landlord, and it fails the next day and someone is burnt/injured, who is liable?
Nobody. Sometimes **** just happens. It isn't always somebody's fault.
 
Scott no mates and Prep, it is a wonder that anyone of us would walk out side or owner a rental property in case something may happen or may not! If the requirement set by law is abc then the owner can do no more than abc until it is tested in a court of law if it ever gets there!!. There are always fires but most no injuries or deaths but I am sorry there have been some deaths. Where there has been no mentions of smoke detectors or fault ever deflected to an owner that i am aware off. Would an owners public liability insurance not cover them if they followed the laws?
 
Sam, smokies are a warning system they don't extinguish fires, alert you if you're deaf or dead drunk and/or can't get up. You can't eliminate all risk nor legislate for stupidity. Are you implying that we should abandon all building & health regulationsand let occupier beware?
 
Scott no mates and Prep, it is a wonder that anyone of us would walk out side or owner a rental property in case something may happen or may not! If the requirement set by law is abc then the owner can do no more than abc until it is tested in a court of law if it ever gets there!!. There are always fires but most no injuries or deaths but I am sorry there have been some deaths. Where there has been no mentions of smoke detectors or fault ever deflected to an owner that i am aware off. Would an owners public liability insurance not cover them if they followed the laws?
1) Reiterating that this is not certain. I may be wrong; a court might find it's reasonable for a landlord to position and test alarms themselves. I doubt it, but I may well be wrong. Even if they did find that, the landlord would have to justify how they chose the alarms, positioning, etc. and demonstrate that they'd done their research. I wouldn't like to be in that position.

2) Re "owner can do no more than abc" - that's simply not true, the statutory law's the minimum, not the maximum. Back to the speed example, if the speed limit's 60, but there's a cyclone on, it doesn't mean you can drive at 60 and if you have an accident say "but I was obeying the speed limit! There's no obligation for me to apply any extra prudence!"

3) Public liability insurance - not sure on this one, might depend on the wording of your policy. My reading of a couple of PDSs suggests that they would at least have grounds to fight the claim. :eek: I read exclusion clauses about "failure to properly maintain" and obligations to "at your expense, take all reasonable precautions", which would seem to carry the same test as the negligence test. i.e. So if it's found to be unreasonable to self-test in negligence, your insurer would likely find the same, and you wouldn't be covered.
 
I will disagree with you on this point Morbius. The ones that I have dealt with to date use electricians. Do you seriously believe companies offering this service will undertake unauthorised electrical work? :eek:

Why? Hard wired appliances require a sparky to change them. If they're incorrectly located they will require relocation not the addition of a battery operated unit somewhere near the right spot.

The BCA directs the correct placement of the smokeys so placement can be confirmed.

Absolutely correct. So if your builder located the alarms, you are almost certainly covered because it is in the building code - i.e. the person who placed the alarm can be expected to know more about it than you. This will be the case for all builds going forward. I am only talking about cases where battery smoke alarms have been fitted since 1997.

Not all smoke alarm companies use electricians. Given that electrical contractors can and are tested on some aspects of the fire code, you may have some kind of protection when the alarms were located and fitted by an electrical contractor.
 
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