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Smoke Alarms - Options for Landlords

Property owners have a responsibility to ensure their property is safe for tenants and meets all current regulations. The current legal requirement is that the installed alarm/s must comply with AS 3768. Additionally the alarms must be positioned in the property to comply with the Building Code of Australia.

In deciding which smoke alarm is appropriate for a property, two decisions need to be made: the power source of the alarm, and the actual type of smoke alarm.

The power source

There are three types of smoke alarms, each with a different power source:

  1. a basic nine volt battery smoke alarm; the type you would generally find in most hardware stores. The batteries require changing at lease once a year.
  2. a hard-wired 240v smoke alarm with a nine volt battery back-up. This type of alarm must be installed by a licensed electrician. They battery back-up needs to be changed at least once a year and
  3. a battery smoke alarm with a lithium battery that has a life span of 10 years. The battery does not need to be changed in this 10-year period. The battery is also tamper proof, meaning that tenants cannot remove the battery.

It is prudent that property owners avoid the cheaper option of a basic nine volt battery smoke alarm. Experience has shown that tenants often remove the battery when it goes flat or accidentally break the alarm. Additionally, the battery needs to be changed at lease once a year. With this type of alarm it is more likely that it may not be operational on an ongoing basis.

A hard-wired 240v smoke alarm with a nine volt battery back-up is a far more reliable and preferable option, but still requires the back-up battery to be changed at least once a year. Many properties cannot install a hard-wired smoke alarm as there is no access to ceiling space to run the necessary wiring.

A strong recommendation is for landlords to install a 10-year lithium battery, tamper proof smoke alarm. The battery does not need to be changed for the life of the smoke alarm (no smoke alarm has an effective life of more than 10 years) and the battery is tamper proof. This will help ensure that an effective, fully operational smoke alarm, which fully complies with the regulations, is installed. It also eliminates the concern that the battery is not working or has not been changed. We believe this type of alarm is the most suitable for landlords.

The type of smoke alarm

There are two types of smoke alarms – ionisation and photo-electric. Ionisation alarms predominantly detect the presence of extremely small particles of smoke while photo-electric smoke alarms mainly detect visible smoke. The following is directly quoted from the Australasian Fire Authorities Council’s (AFAC’s) – ‘Position on Smoke Alarms in Residential Accommodation’:

The AFAC’s position is based on current knowledge about smoke alarm performance: that is, that photo-electric alarms are generally more effective than ionisation alarms across the broader range of fire experiences in home, and should be promoted as the technology of choice.
Current research indicates that:

  • Ionisation smoke alarms detect flaming fires marginally earlier than photo-electric smoke alarms.
  • Photo-electric smoke alarms detect smouldering fires and fires starting in areas remote from smoke alarms significantly earlier than ionisation smoke alarms.
  • Ionisation smoke alarms may not operate in time to alert occupants early enough to escape from smouldering fires; and
  • For both flaming fires and smouldering fires, photo-electric smoke alarms are like to alert occupants in time to escape safely.

As many fires in residential accommodation begin as smouldering fires, photo-electric smoke alarms provide more effective all-round detection and alarm than ionisation alarms.

Article supplied by REIQ Journal

This is only a general guide - not a substitute for professional advice. Santo Correnti Homes does not guarantee the accuracy, reliability, or completeness of any information on this page, and will not be liable for any loss or damage suffered as a result of anyone's relying on this information. We recommend you obtain advice from your own financial, taxation or legal advisor before entering into financial transactions.