Smoke Detectors in Your Home and Laws State by State

May 2, 2021

Smoke detectors are important ensure the safety of your home and proper maintenance of these devices could prove to be lifesaving.

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What smoke alarms do I need in my house?

These tips will help to make sure your smoke alarms perform as intended – when you need them the most:

  1. A short, low beep every 60 seconds indicates the battery power is low and the battery needs replacing. Change your smoke alarm batteries every 12 months on either April 1st (QLD, WA, NT) or at the end of daylight saving (NSW, ACT, VIC, TAS, SA), and use a long-lasting alkaline battery.
  2. Smoke alarms should be tested monthly by pressing the test button with a broom handle.
  3. Smoke alarms should be vacuumed regularly – at a minimum once a year – to clean the vents.
  4. Mains powered smoke alarms also have back-up batteries – check with the manufacturer if your model has batteries that need to be replaced regularly, or whether it has a re-chargeable battery.
  5. Fire Services recommend that you replace your smoke alarm (both battery powered and 240v hard-wired types) after ten years as it may start to fail after this period. A year of manufacture date is displayed on all smoke alarms.

You should install a smoke alarm in each sleeping area, hallway and living area. Smoke alarms installed in hallways should be located between the bedrooms and the rest of the house.

If you live in a house with more than one level, install a smoke alarm on the ceiling at the head of the stairway connecting the levels. On those levels where sleeping areas are located additional smoke alarms may be required between the sleeping areas and the path of exit.

The best protection is provided when smoke alarms are interconnected.

Smoke Alarm Law in the Northern Territory:

Under Northern Territory law, approved smoke alarms must be installed in all residential premises. As a landlord, you must install a photoelectric type smoke alarm that is either hardwired to your home’s power supply or has a sealed lithium battery unit with a 10-year life.

It is the tenants’ responsibility to keep these alarms in good working order. Both home owners and tenants must test each smoke alarm at least once a year.

Smoke Alarm Law in the Tasmania:

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Tasmanian building regulations require all new residential buildings and all other residential buildings that have renovations completed for which a building permit is required, to have at least one smoke alarm installed.

All smoke alarms must be either mains powered or powered by a 10 year non-removable lithium battery. Tenants are required to ensure the smoke alarm is functioning during the whole tenancy, and should let the owner know as soon as they discover that it is not working.

The owner must then repair or replace the alarm as soon as practicable.

Smoke Alarm Law in Western Australia:

Western Australia’s Building Regulations 2012 sets out the requirements for homeowners to have compliant smoke alarms installed where a dwelling is rented under a residential tenancy agreement or made available for such rental.

To comply with the Regulations, owners must ensure that the smoke alarms are in working order, are permanently connected to consumer mains power and not more than 10 years old at the time of making the dwelling available for rent.

They must also comply with the Building Code of Australia (BCA). The BCA requires smoke alarms to be interconnected where there is more than one alarm. This does not apply to a dwelling constructed on an application for a building permit made before 1 May 2015.

Smoke Alarm Law in the South Australia:

Smoke alarms are compulsory for all residential buildings in South Australia. Houses built after 1 January 1995 must be equipped with hard-wired smoke alarms.

All other houses must be equipped with at least 9v battery powered smoke alarms. When a house is sold the new owner has six months to install alarms which are hard wired or powered by 10-year life, non-replaceable, non-removable batteries.

Smoke Alarm Law in Queensland:

Landlords are responsible for the installation of smoke alarms that comply with new Smoke Alarm legislation, introduced on 1 January 2017. The new legislation specifies that all Queensland dwellings are required to have interconnected photoelectric smoke alarms in all bedrooms, in hallways that connect bedrooms with the rest of the dwelling and on every level.

Visit the Queensland Fire and Emergency Services website for more on the 10-year phased rollout of interconnected photoelectric smoke alarms.

Smoke Alarm Law in Victoria:

All homes constructed after 1 August 1997 are required to have mains-powered smoke alarms installed. Residential homes constructed before 1st August 1997 need only 9-volt battery powered smoke alarms installed. Smoke alarms should be supported by a home fire escape plan.

Smoke Alarm Law in New South Wales:

Legislation requires all NSW residents must have at least one working smoke alarm installed on each level of their home. This includes owner occupied, rental properties, relocatable homes, caravans or any other residential building where people sleep.

This has been the law since May 1, 2006 and can include hard-wired or battery powered smoke alarms.

The NSW Fire Brigade recommends where possible that photo-electric smoke alarms are installed in paths of travel between sleeping areas and exits to the open air or to common corridors.

Smoke Alarm Law in Australian Capital Territory:

The Residential Tenancies Act 1997 is the main legislation regulating smoke alarms in the ACT and requires all homes to have mains-powered smoke alarms installed. Amendments were made to this legislation and came into effect in 2017.  

The amendments included:

  • A landlord cannot enter into tenancy agreements unless smoke alarms are installed within the property
  • Smoke alarms must comply with the Building Code of Australia
  • If homes are built after 1994, they must have at least 240V hard-wired alarms
  • Homes built prior to 1994 can have 9V battery-operated alarms
  • As per the Building Code of Australia, homes must have at least one smoke alarm per floor, and one in each space between bedrooms.

Remember, it is the responsibility of the landlord to ensure smoke alarms are installed in rental properties and always follow manufacturer’s instructions when installing smoke alarms.

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