Why is it important to have working smoke alarms in rental property?

smoke alarms in rental property

08 May Why is it important to have working smoke alarms in rental property?

If you own a rental property, do you appreciate the fact that having correctly installed and working smoke alarms in rental property is your first line of defence for protecting your valuable investment and keeping your tenants safe in the event of a fire?

According to the New Zealand Fire Service, every year there are more than 3,500 house fires. Furthermore, in 80% of the fatal fires they attend, smoke alarms are either not installed or not working.

These sad statistics have led the Government to recently pass the Residential Tenancies Amendment Bill into law.

What this means for landlords

According to the Residential Tenancies Act 2016, from 1 July 2016 working smoke alarms must be installed in all residential rental properties. Also, all new alarms that are installed must be the long-life photoelectric-type smoke alarms, as these last for at least 10 years and the battery cannot be removed.

What this means for landlords is that from 1 July 2016 it’s unlawful for a landlord to fail to comply with their responsibilities under the new requirement that there with working smoke alarms in rental properties.

Failure to comply with the new requirements carries a maximum penalty of a $4000.00 fine for a non-compliant landlord.

However, these new rules are NOT bad news for landlords. While the purpose of the new rules is to ensure all rental properties are safer for tenants, ensuring that each rental property has working smoke alarms will also reduce the tens of millions of dollars’ damage that fires cause to landlords’ properties every year.

What this means for tenants

A tenant also has obligations under the new regulations. A tenant is required to maintain any installed smoke alarms, including replacing batteries if this is required, for the duration of their tenancy.

A tenant can be fined up to $3000.00 if they cause or permit any interference with, or render inoperative, any means of escape from fire. This includes interfering with or making any smoke alarm inoperative, for example by removing the battery or obstructing the alarm itself.

Checklist of legal obligations for landlords, property managers and tenants

  • Every rental property needs to have at least one working smoke alarm – the number depends on how many bedrooms there are in the rental property, as a working smoke alarm is required in each sleeping space or within 3m of each bedroom door. In a multi-story home, there must be one smoke alarm on each level within the household. If the rental property is a self-contained caravan, sleep-out or similar space there must be a minimum of one working smoke alarm.
  • If the rental property does not have any smoke alarms installed, the owner of the property has to install long-life photoelectric-type smoke alarms, as these last for at least 10 years and the battery cannot be removed.
  • All existing smoke alarms must be replaced in accordance with the manufacturer’s recommended replacement date as stated on the alarm. When any existing smoke alarms in rental properties are replaced, the replacements must be the long-life, photoelectric-type smoke alarms.
  • Hard-wired smoke alarms are also acceptable. In the case of hard-wired smoke alarms, the New Zealand Fire Service recommends that the alarms be interconnected and hard-wired to the property’s electrical wiring to ensure that all the smoke alarms activate simultaneously in the event of a fire.
  • Landlords are responsible for making sure all the smoke alarms in their rental properties are in working order at the beginning of each new tenancy.
  • Tenants are responsible for replacing the batteries in their smoke alarms and for ensuring the alarms are in good working order by checking them regularly. If a tenant discovers their smoke alarm is not working, they must tell their property manager/landlord immediately.

For optimum protection, fire alarms should be installed on the ceiling in every bedroom, living area and hallway. However, don’t put smoke alarms in a kitchen, bathroom or laundry, as the heat from cooking and clothes drying, and the steam from showering can cause a false activation of the alarm.

The new regulations are already saving property and lives

Already in June, a Whanganui property manager, prompted by the publicity around the new regulations, installed long-life smoke alarms in the properties she was managing. Just a day later, one kicked into action, preventing damage to both property and lives.

Recently, in Westport, a sleeping family of seven was saved by smoke alarms in their rental property, when the alarms, which had been checked by the owner before the family moved in a fortnight previously, activated in the middle of the night.

Get an experienced property manager to look after your rental property

The property managers at Fahey Property Management are experienced in dealing with all aspects of managing a rental property. We ensure we keep up to date on all the various legal requirements relating to residential rental properties, so can help you take care of all the details to protect your tenants, your valuable rental property and your bottom line.

Our property managers will check that the smoke alarms in your rental property comply with the new requirements under the Residential Tenancies Act 2016 and that they are in good working order at the start of each new tenancy. We do regular inspections of the rental properties under our management and provide landlords with a detailed report of any actions required.


Looking for a tenant for your rental property? Or need to rent a home or apartment property in Auckland or Hamilton?

Contact Fahey Property Management now. As specialist property managers, we at Fahey Property Management can give landlords good advice on how to ensure your rental properties are set up to attract and retain good tenants. Our services include property maintenance, so we can arrange repairs to and maintenance of your property for you, including helping you make the improvements listed above.