Smoke Alarms in Apartments
Smoke Alarms are covered under regulation 76B of the Development Act 1993 which places the following minimum legislative requirements on all residential properties:
Homes owned prior to 1st February 1998 require a replaceable battery powered smoke alarm
Homes purchased on or after 1st February 1998 require (within six months of purchase) a 240v hard wired smoke alarm or a 10 year lithium non-removable, non-replaceable battery powered smoke alarm
Homes built on or after 1st January 1995 require 240v powered alarms
The Metropolitan Fire Service (www.mfs.sa.gov.au) recommend pressing the test button on a smoke alarm once a month to ensure that the alarm is working and that every six months the soft brush attachment of the vacuum cleaner or a soft bristle brush should be used to remove dust, lint or cobwebs from the exterior of the alarm.
Recent advertising around daylight saving has also recommended that when householders change their clocks, they should also change the smoke alarm battery and if your existing ionisation alarm reaches 10 years of age it is considered best practice to upgrade to photo electric alarms.
For investor owners it is recommended that information about smoke alarms is provided to tenants at the commencement of the tenancy and this is particularly important inside apartment buildings with monitored fire systems.
In August 2014, the Advertiser reported that more than a third of the call-outs the MFS are responding to are false alarms which can be charged back to the property owner if the system is inadequately maintained, the system is faulty, malicious or mischievous damage or avoidable activations such as cooking in an inappropriate location.
It is common in apartments buildings that have frequent MFS call-outs to enable a policy that these call-outs be charged by the body corporate to the owner of the unit responsible (as the MFS will charge the body corporate).
We recommend ensuring that owners place accurate information about the system within the unit for their tenant and that body corporate managers inform committees of any MFS call-outs and the reason behind these so that the committee can make informed decisions about whether further maintenance of the system is required.
It is also imperative that any MFS charges received by the body corporate are promptly charged to the relevant owner if such a policy is in place. In recent discussions with a prospective client we were advised that his dissatisfaction with the current manager of his body corporate was due to holding onto the invoice until the tenant had vacated the property meaning that the owner had no ability to pass on the charge to the person responsible and was stuck with an $800 bill.
If you have any queries concerning rights and responsibilities with smoke alarms please contact:
The general enquiries line of the South Australian Metropolitan Fire Service on 8204 3600.