House fires are on the rise across New South Wales. Scenes of lit up buildings engulfed in smoke are becoming increasingly common – as was the case for a unit block in Villawood earlier this month, causing 20 people to be rescued and more than 120 firefighters to be called to action. Along with increased incidents of house fires, they are also becoming increasingly fatal. Last year, there were 4070 house fires across the state, causing 17 deaths.

The tragic yet promising fact is that much of the damage and death caused by these house fires could have been avoided if an adequate smoke alarm system had been fitted and maintained. As a Landlord, you owe your tenants a duty to provide adequate house fire protection through an effective smoke alarm system. This article will cover the basic legislative requirements you should consider. 

The Residential Tenancies Act 2010 outlines the rights and responsibilities of Landlords and Tenants in relation to smoke alarms. The main points to take from the legislation are: 

•        Landlords must install smoke alarms in their rented premises.

•        Landlords have a right to access rented premises to fit or maintain smoke alarms once they provide the tenant with at least 2 days’ notice.

•        Neither the landlord nor the tenant can remove or interfere with a smoke alarm, except with reasonable excuse.

•        The landlord should install a new battery at the beginning of each new tenancy.

•        During the tenancy, it is the tenant’s responsibility to replace the battery. It is recommended that the battery is changed at the start of each daylight savings.

•        Landlords of holiday accommodation are responsible for both installing smoke alarms and replacing their batteries.

Ensuring you comply with these requirements will not only minimise the risk of harm to your tenants and your property, but also protect you from liability if the worst should happen. The costs associated with house fires can be astronomical so it is strongly advised that you take a proactive approach to minimising the risk.

The five most common causes of home fires include unattended or abandoned cooking, electrical failures, falling asleep, overheating and mechanical failures. Whilst a smoke alarm cannot always prevent such fires from occurring, they are critical for minimising the damage they cause and giving people earlier notice to protect themselves and their property.

Now that you know your basic rights and responsibilities as a Landlord, you should put these into practice! Review your smoke alarms and make sure they are up to standard. Property inspections include smoke alarm checks so take advantage of this beneficial service. For more information, or to book in your property inspection today, contact me on 8858 3260.

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