Smoke alarm compliance

Hi,

I just receive a letter from my pm and it asked me to join the smoke alarm maintenance company.

I have a landlord insurance, does it cover any liability arises from the smoke alarm malfunction?

Does everyone always maintain the smoke alarms in their IP? If yes, is it DIY or pay for smoke alarm company service?


Thanks in advance.
 
I always test the smoke alarms during regular inspections.
When I was renting through a PM, she would always do the same when she did the 3 monthly inspections of my place.
Not sure why you would need a maintenance company to do this. It's not hard to push a button.
Not sure what landlord insurance has to do with anything. Smoke alarms are there to save lives. The first sign of trouble with one and the last thing I'd be looking at was my insurance policy. I'd be replacing it ASAP.
 
Insurance will never cover you against prosecution. Smoke alarms should be properly maintained, and it seems that many PMs are no longer prepared to take responsibility for this. There have been landlords prosecuted through the courts when death has occurred and the smoke alarms have been missing or not working.

Our PM has passed the responsibility on to an outside agency. We had the choice of going with the agency or signing a notice stating we were taking responsibility for the maintenance of the smoke alarms.

Check your state leglislation regarding smoke alarms and ensure you comply fully.
Marg
 
It may vary from state to state.

http://www.fairtrading.nsw.gov.au/Tenants_and_home_owners/Being_a_landlord/Smoke_alarms.html

Specifically

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.
 
There have been landlords prosecuted through the courts when death has occurred and the smoke alarms have been missing or not working.

Where has this occurred?

Would not have thought that the smoke alarm legislation has even been enacted long enough for this to have occurred.

Cheers
 
Hi,
I just receive a letter from my pm and it asked me to join the smoke alarm maintenance company.
I have a landlord insurance, does it cover any liability arises from the smoke alarm malfunction?
Does everyone always maintain the smoke alarms in their IP? If yes, is it DIY or pay for smoke alarm company service?
Thanks in advance.

Those agencies are acting silly.
As 2 Bob said In NSW it's the responsibility of the tenant to replace the batteries.
The landlord only has to install new batteries at the beginning of the tenancy.
I guess we could ask the PM to test them at their 6 monthly inspections and keep a record of that in the file.....
 
Insurance will never cover you against prosecution. Smoke alarms should be properly maintained, and it seems that many PMs are no longer prepared to take responsibility for this. There have been landlords prosecuted through the courts when death has occurred and the smoke alarms have been missing or not working.

Our PM has passed the responsibility on to an outside agency. We had the choice of going with the agency or signing a notice stating we were taking responsibility for the maintenance of the smoke alarms.

Check your state leglislation regarding smoke alarms and ensure you comply fully.
Marg

Marg,

Having a strong legal background, I would love nothing more than you to provide some case law in relation to your assertion that landlords have been prosecuted in relation to non working smoke alarms (both criminally or civilly)! Even in a civil case the evidential burden of proof to establish that either a smoke alarm failed or was not working based on the balance of probabilities is an incredible challenge.

I cringe at the thought of you providing legal advice to people in relation to smoke alarms and their responsibilities. As several people have suggested, an examination of there respective legislation will provide enough guidance as to the responsibilities of the Landlord. No Landlord need to engage an external company to maintain there smoke alarms, unless of course they wish to have the people engaged or perform the duties themselves.
Kind regards,

Billy
 
Hi,
I just receive a letter from my pm and it asked me to join the smoke alarm maintenance company.
.

I received 1 of those as well and from different agents and they also had a form for me to sign either agreeing to the $90 annual inspection fee or accepting responsibility for the smoke alarm.

I did not sign because I am not responsible to maintain the alarm,
the testing and the battery replacement is the tenant's responsibility.
What are they going to ask us next? to hold our tenants hand to cross the road?

The letter is legaly driven to cover their a*s and is probably written from their lawyer who is trying to find something to justify his pay.
Some of the legal stuff that gets thrown at us these days has nothing to do with reality, it's there because someone wants to make a buck.
 
Geez just got an email hitting me up for this!!!!!

All the REA's must have been to the same seminar or conversely are on the same industry propaganda bulletin. Either "Handy hint and squeezing some more money out of your landlord" or "how to sidestep any potential obligation 101"

Cheers
 
I recently received such a letter too. I think the agents are trying to pass any potential liability onto the owners. There must have been cases where fire alarms were not working and caused damage to tenants or property. Tenants or owner probably sued agent for failing to ensure fire alarm was working. And to protect themselves, the agents have come up with this thing ...
 
Let me speak for the PM's

We had this discussion some time back and it isn't about trying to squeeze more money out of owners.

The logistics of testing the smoke alarms properly pushes the role of the property manager into the role of a handyman.

Best practice, a pm should test the smoke (probe it with a stick or like) and sight it to ensure it has not been tampered with and is in a clean condition.
_______________
What a property manager should not do is to physically get up, use a tool to open the smoke alarm and change the battery.

I know that some people's views in here are that this is so easy to do and property managers should be able to do this.
Fact: not all property managers know how to do this simple task - don't laugh - they don't. Most property managers do not carry around cordless drills or screwdrivers - most will have their notepads/folders, jailers set of keys, mobile phone, camera and pen.

Should property managers service the smoke alarms?
No.

What should you do as a landlord when you receive this letter?
Ultimately, the property is yours, you get to decide what you want to do with it.
1. nominate your own preferred smoke alarm service company.
2. advise your property manager in writing that you will be responsible for it yourself. (I have some clients I strongly advise against this because I know they want to save on the service cost but they have no idea even to open the cover!)
or
3. Accept what the agent is arranging for you - I know it's another unwanted expense in this game, but you can at least claim it against the income.

Why did the agent send you the letter in the first place?
The agent has been put in the spotlight by the new legislation because (in Qld) when there is a new lease or a current lease is re-newed, smoke alarms have to be serviced. If you are an interstate owner - you cannot physically service it yourself. The property managers can't do it for you. Only option is a third party service provider. You still have the rights as the owner to choose which service provider you want to use.

Why should you use a third party service provider for this issue?
It's tax deductible and it should become part of your asset protection strategy. No doubt a lot of owners in this forum have the investment properties in their names...think of a scary worst case scenario....and prepare for it :)

About the litigous side and having to prove in court of law? or your insurer? Both you do not want to encounter. If a professional assessor proves the fire was contibuted to by a faulty smoke alarm and you have no track record of service? Relying on a property managers - usually very sparce routine inspection report with a tick in the relevant box? (Oh, and by the way, chances that the property manager who did the inspections - is no longer with that agency.) You'd be nuts!

Where property managers go wrong
I would blame your property managers for not educating you on the changes in a way that you would understand how the changes impact your circumstance. Don't be too hard on them, most of them don't know either.
And/or provide you with alternate avenues of action that will still comply.

Where property managers stand once they have notified you of your choices?
Well, they've wiped their hands clean in any future event a fire caused by faulty/poorly serviced smoke alarm does cause damage to person or property or both.
"Your Honour, we have advised the client in wiriting of their required obligations under the .....Act and provided them with an option. They have declined our recommendations....." If they then pull out a copy of the letter they sent you....at this stage you are sooo on your pat malone.

P.s. each time a lease is due for renewal, you will keep receiving a letter advising that smoke alarms need to be serviced as part of the lease renewal process.

________________________________________________________
http://www.rta.qld.gov.au/zone_files/fact_sheets/smoke_alarms.pdf

www.propertymanagementhq.com.au
 
Last edited:
I received 1 of those as well and from different agents and they also had a form for me to sign either agreeing to the $90 annual inspection fee or accepting responsibility for the smoke alarm.

Are they kidding? I bought a 3 pack of smoke alarms the other day for $40. $90 for an inspection is a joke isn't it?
 
Are they kidding? I bought a 3 pack of smoke alarms the other day for $40. $90 for an inspection is a joke isn't it?

That's not the point. You can buy it for that - then you have to go to the property and put it in as well, then you have to keep your receipt as proof that it was purchased at this point in time.

Everyone who is concerned about the cost is comparing it to the value they place on the item. Like everything commercial, it isn't the cost of the item that makes everything expensive - it is the labour and infratsructure that makes things cost more. Someone has to actually go to the property - if you are running a business and trying to get hold of tenants or access to numerous tenanted properties - think about it, the logistics can be annoying. Then they have the paperwork to do and maintain as part of their insurance for carrying out such works. Then pay their staff and/or contractors.

If you are local to your investment - you definitely have the right to attent to the smoke alarm at each point in time as necessary for compliance as a lessor, but you bear all the cost.

In a recent Qld case in the district courts: Spackman v Stevens and James (2010) QDC 118 - the duty of care owed to the tenant of a rental property was analysed. This particular case was a bout a carpenter who did work on a deck - suffice to say the agent and landlord were not in the wrong as they acted as they should in getting the contractor to carryout the works. The tenant is injured and sues the agent, landlord and contractor...contractors insurance will now pay out the tenant.

If as an owner, you want to be the one left holding the baby because you can't see beyond the trees...have a very good look at your insurance policy first because we all know what they like doing best.
 
Are they kidding? I bought a 3 pack of smoke alarms the other day for $40. $90 for an inspection is a joke isn't it?

I would think it's about the cost of a life, not the cost of the item.
If you are buying 3 for $40 then you are obviously buying the cheaper end of alarms & they do not work.
There are 2 types of smoke alarms. Ionization & Photoelectric.

Ionization Alarms (the cheap ones) are not "smoke" alarms. They were originally invented as GAS detectors & it was accidentally found that they also detect smoke.
They detect the GAS. That's why they constantly false alarm from cooking & toast making, as well as steam from the shower etc.
This is also why MANY people (tenants & owners alike) disable them due to the nuisence.
AND THEY CONTAIN RADIO-ACTIVE MATERIAL


Photoelectric are more expensive (about $40ea) but are FAR superior to the Ion type alarms.
They actually work.

http://www.wthr.com/global/Story.asp?s=6861441
 
Louwai, thanks for the free leason in smoke alarms.
The pack included 1x Ionization and 2x Photoelectric. I think from memory they were the Chubb brand so I would assume that they in fact do work and I'm not putting my tenants life at risk.

There is no requirement in South Australia, that I am aware of, that dictates an Ionization alarm can't be used. Why is this the case if they 'do not work'?

Rest assured that I have installed one of the Photoelectric alarms in the property I recently had to replace the alarm in. I even checked the recommended installation position and it looks to be in the perfect spot. Should our tennants wish to consume the smoke alarm themselves I am relieved to hear they won't suffer any radiation sickness.....

Lura, I took the time to speak to the manager of the real estate company that manages my properties and have assured them that if they are not willing to continue to test the smoke alarms before each new tenancy and send me out a letter as discussed in this thread then they will no longer be managing my properties. He laughed off the suggestion that at some stage their property managers will not be capable of easily testing the alarms and that it will be business as usual for our arangement and that I wont be out an extra $90/property/year to get a third part in to press a single button on an alarm. I will also maintain a record of the alarms purchase date and ensure all of them are replaced before their service life expires.

If I am failing in my obligations in any way, or putting any of my tenants at risk please let me know.

Gools
 
If you are buying 3 for $40 then you are obviously buying the cheaper end of alarms & they do not work.

So you are saying that fire alarms purchase from a reputable source (ie: Bunnings etc) with the appropriate Australian Standard endorsed on them don't work?

Gee, thats shocking...you should write a letter to your local consumer affairs agency to inform them of the fact that smoke alarms are being sold with AS3786-93 compliance stickers when in fact they don't work!

Of course Photoelectric and Ionising detectors have different roles to play. If you read the packaging on any of the ones I've looked at, they recommend where that particular kind of alarm should be placed (ie: cooking areas vs sleeping areas etc)

Murphy
 
Top