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Reminder for Landlords: Smoke Alarms are Non-Negotiable

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In autumn 2018, the Tenancy Tribunal issued a significant fine against a landlord who failed to install smoke alarms – with the added danger of a non-compliant gas supply, and no statement on insulation.

Following complaints of a gas leak at one of the Christchurch boarding houses operated by Lina Liu, the gas supply to the property was found to be non-compliant. When the Tenancy Compliance team looked into the landlord’s operations, it was established that the landlord failed to have working smoke alarms at both of her properties. Also, there were no written tenancy agreements with an insulation statement in place. The result was prosecution. Lina Liu, who owned two boarding houses, was taken to the Tenancy Tribunal because she had failed to meet her responsibilities under the Residential Tenancies Act (RTA).

The Tenancy Tribunal Ordered Ms Liu to pay $4000 in exemplary damages, plus $100.00 for failing to provide a written statement that adequately described the levels of insulation.

The lessons for landlords to learn:

  • A statement of smoke alarms must be included in a tenancy agreement
  • Landlords don’t have to replace the batteries in battery-operated smoke alarms (that’s the tenants’ job)
  • The Tenancy Compliance Team (TCIT) has the power to return to non-compliant properties for monitoring
  • It is essential to let Rental Experts know about the status of smoke alarms at the property

Can’t my Rental Experts Northland property manager handle the smoke alarms?

No, sorry. The reasons smoke alarm testing is outside your property manager’s scope of work are:

  • The Residential Tenancies Act (Smoke Alarms and Insulation Regulations) specifies landlords are responsible for having smoke alarms installed; tenants must ensure batteries function.
  • Insurance doesn’t cover accidents happening to our property managers during inspections
  • Property managers don’t have the equipment to professionally test the alarm’s decibels (sound)
  • Smoke alarm testing is not a standard part of normal 3-monthly inspections of properties
  • Vacuuming a smoke alarm to remove dust is a tenant’s responsibility, not the property manager’s.

Unfortunately smoke alarm testing is not a service your property manager can take care of – please get yours tested by professionals. We prefer you agree for Smoke Alarm Testing Services (SATS) to test your smoke alarms.

Smoke alarms must be fitted:

  • Within 3 metres of each bedroom door, or in every room where a person sleeps
  • In each level or story of a multi-storey or multi-level home
  • In all rental homes, boarding houses, rental caravans, and sleepouts.