Smoke Alarms-Building Amendment Regulations 2009 (Frequently Asked Questions updated 19 August 2009) What types of properties to these new smoke alarm regulations apply to when do they commence? Q What types of properties do these new smoke alarm regulations apply to? A Houses, duplexes, villas, flats, town houses and apartments (BCA Class 1a, 2 and 4)and any guest house or hostel such as a bed and breakfast where people reside (BCA Class 1b). Q When do they commence? A The new regulation will come into effect on 1 October 2009. Selling or Buying a Property Q I am planning to sell my home. It does not have any hard wired (mains powered) smoke alarms installed. What am I required to do? A From 1 October 2009, prior to the transfer of ownership of your property hard wired (mains powered) smoke alarms will need to be fitted. Q I am thinking of buying a new house to live in. Who has to fit the smoke alarms? A The responsibility for having smoke alarms fitted to the property rests with the vendor (seller). They should be aware of this new requirement, however it may pay to ask if hard wired smoke alarms are installed and if so they are within the 10 year service life. This is best checked by a licensed electrical contractor. Q If I take ownership of a property after 1 October 2009 and I find it does not have smoke alarms fitted. What can I do? A You must contact the seller and ask them to rectify the situation. Alternatively, you can install the smoke alarms to meet the requirements and recover reasonable costs in a court from the previous owner. In addition action can be taken against the previous owner by local government and an infringement notice issue or prosecution action taken. [Reg 38K (2)]. A fine of $5 000 can be imposed. As the new owner, if there are no smoke alarms installed when you take ownership of the property you will be required to fit smoke alarms within 12 months otherwise you will be in breach of the regulations.[Reg 38K(1)] The best advice is to check with the vendor (seller) and confirm that smoke alarms have been installed. Rental Property questions Q I am a landlord and am changing tenants. What do I have to do? A After 1 October 2009, when there is a tenancy change smoke alarms to meet the new requirements must be fitted. Q Do smoke alarms have to be fitted before the tenant moves in? A Landlords have up to 14 days from the date the tenant/lessee is entitled to occupy the dwelling, to have the smoke alarms installed (Regulation38L) Q I am a landlord and have a long running tenant in my rental property. Do I have to install smoke alarms? A If there is no change of tenancy in a rental property by 1 October 2011, smoke alarms will be required to be installed by that date. Q I am a tenant moving into a rental property after October 2009 and observe there are no smoke alarms fitted? A Speak to your landlord. From 1 October 2009, all rental properties where there is a change of tenant are required to have smoke alarms fitted. If this does not resolve the situation, you should speak to your Local Government who can inspect the property, issue a rectification notice, infringement notice or prosecute for any breaches with a fine up to $5 000. Where are smoke alarms required and what type should be fitted? Q How many smoke alarms will have to be fitted to my house? A This will depend on the design of your property, in particular the number of bedrooms, how far they are separated and how many levels in your house. Class 1b buildings (hostels/guest houses/bed and breakfast premises) require smoke alarms to be installed in each sleeping occupancy. See FESA information sheet relating to installation. Q What type of smoke alarms are the best to use? A Any smoke alarm used must conform to AS 3786. FESA recommends photoelectric smoke alarms are installed. Research indicates this type of alarm consistently provides sufficient time for occupants to escape from smouldering and flaming fires, provided the alarms are properly installed and maintained and occupants hear them. There are smoke alarms installed, do they meet the requirements? Q There are smoke alarms installed, how do I know they are hard wired (mains powered)? A This is best verified by a licensed electrical contractor. The electrician can also check the unit to see if it is still within the 10 year service life. Any smoke alarm has to be replaced after 10 years. FESA has developed a sticker in conjunction with the National Electrical Communications Association (NECA) that is now being used by licensed electrical Page 3 contractors to record the date the mains powered smoke alarms were installed. This will be placed in the meter box or switchboard servicing the dwelling. Q There are more than two hard wired smoke alarms installed and they have been fitted at different dates. What date should I use? A The date the first smoke alarm was installed should be used. Q The house has a mains powered security system installed which has a smoke detection function incorporated. The system has a battery back-up. Does this meet the requirements of the new regulations? A Smoke alarms connected as part of security systems are acceptable as long as they meet the requirements of Australian Standard 3786 which apply to all smoke alarm equipment. This would be best answered by the manufacturer of your security system. The location of the smoke detection heads must also be consistent with BCA requirements. Irrespective of the mechanisms of smoke detection systems used, all smoke detection equipment must be changed after 10 years as reliability severely diminishes after this time. This should be discussed with system manufacturer or supplier. How much do smoke alarms cost to install and how long do they last? Q How much do they cost to install? A Mains powered smoke alarms are wired into your house’s electrical system and have to be installed by a licensed electrical contractor. The National Electrical Communications Association have advised electrician’s costs to supply and fit an individual hard wired smoke alarm is $240 – $280 (not incl GST) and $150 – $180 for additional units where required. Q How long do they last? A All smoke alarms have a recognised service life of 10 years before they become unreliable. Smoke alarms therefore need to be changed every 10 years. Some hard wired smoke alarms require a back-up battery to power the alarm during power outages and these also may need changing every 12 months. Q How do I know if they are working? A All smoke alarms are fitted with a test switch and FESA recommends all units should be tested monthly. It is not practical to install a mains powered smoke alarm Q There is no mains power available? A A smoke alarm powered by a 10 year life battery that cannot be removed from the alarm should be used. Q I am selling an apartment in a block where the ceiling is solid concrete. Do I have to install a hard wired (mains powered) smoke alarm? Page 4 A In dwellings where the construction of the building does not permit a space to conceal the wiring and there is no appropriate alternative location to install a mains powered smoke alarm then a unit powered by a 10 year life battery that cannot be removed from the alarm is permitted. There is no application to be completed in these situations. Q I am an owner or a landlord and installing a mains powered smoke alarm and there are reasons of a structural nature that make this impractical? Do I have to install smoke alarms? A You will have to make application to the Local Government for the area who will review the circumstances and may approve a unit powered by a 10 year life battery that cannot be removed from the alarm. You will need to follow the local government process and this may involve paying a fee no greater than $170 to process your application.