There are about 3,000 house fires in Victoria each year — most of which could be prevented by taking simple precautions, including installing smoke alarms.
Even a faulty smoke alarm in the house can have fatal repercussions. It isn’t a reach to say then that smoke alarms save lives, and every Victorian should abide by the smoke alarm installation and maintenance laws in their area.
Apart from preventing safety hazards, being aware of relevant laws is essential to avoid legal trouble for rental providers and residents alike. After all, considering how many lives are lost to house fires every year, policymakers have now set up stringent rules and guidelines about fire safety.
So, whether you are a landlord, a tenant, or a responsible citizen, here’s what you need to know about installing smoke alarms in Victoria.
As any Victorian is aware, the region is susceptible to bushfires and other fire hazards from natural causes or human interference. And so, in 1997, the governing bodies tightened the rules regarding smoke detectors, making it compulsory for homeowners to install at least one in their flats, townhouses, and homes.
On that note, any residential unit constructed or renovated after August 1997 should have a hard-wired smoke alarm connected to a 240-volt mains supply. Residents and owners should check that each smoke alarm is working at all times. You must ensure that the smoke alarms have a backup battery to keep them functional during power cuts.
Nevertheless, fire services recommend that homeowners install or replace existing devices with photoelectric smoke alarms that meet the AS3786 Australian Standard for smoke alarms and detectors. That said, photoelectric smoke detectors minimise the chances of false alarms.
All Victorians are legally required to have a minimum of one smoke alarm per home. However, it is highly recommended that you opt for an interconnected alarm system with multiple detectors in separate rooms.
For instance, you can install smoke alarms in every sleeping area, the kitchen, and the living room. Here, interconnected smoke alarms will be activated if a single device detects smoke or fire.
Once you have installed smoke alarms around the house, it is crucial to ensure they are working. That said, you must routinely test and replace the batteries.
To test the batteries, you have to press and hold the test button until you hear three beeps — this test should be performed every month. At the same time, experts recommend replacing 9-volt batteries every year. However, smoke alarms powered by lithium batteries last longer and need to be replaced every ten years.
Proper maintenance also includes cleaning the smoke alarm and replacing the units every ten years. As for cleaning, you can vacuum the unit or gently wipe the exterior to prevent dust and other barriers that may block sound.
Broken smoke alarms are urgent repairs that need to be immediately taken care of by a licensed professional. Generally, rental providers and homeowners hire a qualified electrician for repairs and installations.
So, if you are a renter or resident, be sure to notify your rental provider if a smoke alarm needs to be repaired or replaced. And if you are unable to contact the landlord or they do not fix the issue, you can authorise any repair work of up to $2,500. The rental provider is then required to reimburse the amount within seven days.
First off, all rental providers must ensure that their property is fitted with working smoke alarms and a battery backup. Apart from checking that each device is correctly installed and working, they are responsible for routine maintenance checks.
These include battery replacements, installing new smoke alarms, and testing the system on time. As a rule of thumb, units should be replaced at least once every 12 months, while you must change batteries according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
And before a rental agreement is signed, rental providers should give potential residents adequate information about the working and maintenance of smoke alarms. The responsibilities of the rental provider also include urgent repairs, which must be arranged and paid for immediately.
While the homeowners are responsible for regular maintenance checks, residents must also watch for faulty smoke alarms. If a unit needs repairs or replacement, the renter must notify the rental provider in writing.
Also, renters and their guests must never deactivate or tamper with the smoke alarms installed by the rental providers. Doing so is a breach of duty and allows the rental provider to give the resident a notice to vacate the property.
On that note, renters must not remove the batteries of the smoke alarm before moving out.
Before wrapping up, we would suggest rental providers and renters go through some of the changes made to rental agreements entered into after March 2021. These reforms include differences in language and the addition of smoke alarm-related terms and conditions.
So, while “landlords” are referred to as “rental providers,” “tenants” are called “renters” within the document. On that note, the document name itself has been changed from “lease” to “rental agreement.”
Other significant changes include the addition of smoke alarm repairs under “urgent repairs.” To know more about what makes an urgent repair, you can refer to Section 3 of the Residential Tenancies Act 1997.
Also, the rental agreement may specify new terms related to maintenance and other smoke alarm-related safety precautions. Here, you may also find a clause stating that residents and visitors must not tamper with or deactivate smoke alarms at any time.
Homes occupied by senior citizens or persons with disabilities should be equipped with a specialised personal alarm system. Once activated, these devices will alert the monitoring company so that help can arrive immediately.
Smoke alarms designed for those who are hard of hearing include unique features, such as strobe lights, vibrating pads, and other sensory alerts.
Fire safety in fire-prone regions like Victoria is a serious matter, which is only becoming more severe with factors such as climate change. Apart from local governing bodies that set up strict rules, collective action is necessary to keep fire hazards minimum and save lives.
All individuals should take the responsibility to learn more about fire safety at home. On that note, you should consider visiting the Fire Rescue Victoria site for fire safety tips that you can follow today — starting with installing a smoke alarm.
And, if you would like any assistance installing, repairing or replacing your smoke alarm in Melbourne, speak to our team!
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