Tribunal Rules Against Landlord in Smoke Alarms Case

July 2, 2018

Earlier this year an Auckland landlord was fined $2,000 by the Tenancy Tribunal for not fitting his rental property with smoke alarms in accordance with the Residential Tenancies Act and Regulations. The ruling was a stern reminder that all landlords must comply with smoke alarm legislation. Let’s look at how landlords and tenants can both ensure their rental properties meet the standard… 

 How many smoke alarms does a house need?

Smoke alarm requirements for rental properties are clearly outlined in the Residential Tenancies Act and Regulations. The effort and cost of meeting them pale in comparison to the very real consequences of ignoring them: a penalty of up to $4,000 for landlords, or a potentially fatal house fire with no warning for the tenants.

Landlords are responsible for a rental property being fitted with smoke alarms. Smoke alarms must be installed in all rental homes, self-contained sleep-outs, rental caravans and boarding houses. There must be one within three metres of each bedroom door and on each level of a multi-level or multi-story home.

When fitting new smoke alarms, landlords must ensure they are photoelectric models with a long battery life of eight years or more (or that they are hard-wired into the mains), and that they meet international standards. 

Do existing smoke alarms need to be replaced?

If a rental home has existing smoke alarms that are working and haven’t passed the expiry date indicated by the manufacturer, they do not need to be replaced.

Who is responsible for fire alarm maintenance in a rental property?

While it’s the responsibility of the landlord to make sure the right type and amount of working smoke alarms are fitted in a property at the start of each tenancy, it’s a team effort when it comes to smoke alarm maintenance. Tenants need to play their part by not damaging, disconnecting or removing smoke alarms. It’s also up to the tenant to replace any dead batteries if the property is fitted with old-style smoke alarms, and they must inform the landlord of any smoke alarm problems, asap. Tenants aren’t exempt from fines of up to $4,000 if they don’t meet their obligations. 

Is your rental property compliant?... Are you sure?

We can’t reiterate the hefty financial and potentially life-threatening consequences of ignoring smoke alarm regulations anymore than to say they are literally there to save lives. We recommend landlords complete a Compliance Checklist, and that landlords and tenants alike read this to make sure they are doing their part. For more, Fire and Emergency New Zealand offer helpful advice on choosing, installing and checking smoke alarms, and if you have any further questions about smoke alarms in rental properties, drop us a line.


'Clarksville house fire’ by John M. Cropper under CC BY-NC 2.0.

‘Push the button’ by Jamie King... under CC BY-NC 2.0.

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Filed under Information for tenants \ Landlord Information \ Property inspections

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