Smoke Alarms

In most states across Australia smoke alarms complying with Australian Standards must be fitted in all rental properties and in accordance with the Building Code of Australia.

See below for the individual state requirements.

A person not complying with the legislation is guilty of an offence.

Fire & Rescue Emergency Services across Australia are urging Landlords to install the new photoelectric smoke alarm.

The photoelectric smoke alarm could save more lives as the photoelectric type detects slow burning and smouldering fires earlier than the ionization type of alarms.

If you’re not sure what type of smoke alarm you have look for a yellow and black radiation symbol, the new photoelectric smoke alarms look like any other alarm but do not have the radiation symbol. The battery powered photoelectric smoke alarm can be purchased from any hardware store or electrical retailer, the price is comparable with the common ionisation alarms and can be installed by anyone it doesn’t have to be a licensed electrician unless of course your smoke alarm is wired in this case only a licensed electrician can replace your 240 volt smoke alarm and it must be replaced with a 240 volt smoke alarm.

If your 240 volt smoke alarm is relatively new but not photoelectric, it’s a good idea to add a battery powered photoelectric smoke alarm beside your existing smoke alarm for better protection.

Smoke alarm ‘Must know’ facts:

* At least one smoke alarm must be located between bedrooms and the most likely escape path on each level of every residential property.
* Smoke alarms have a limited life span of around 10 years.
* People’s sense of smell is drastically impaired while they sleep meaning smouldering fires may burn for some time with poisonous gases emitted that can kill a person before they are even aware of the danger.
* Smoke alarms should be tested monthly.
* Landlords have the right of access to rented premises to fit smoke alarms after giving the tenant at least two days notice.
* The grille area of the smoke alarm should be cleaned every 6 months using a vacuum to remove dust or debris.
* A smoke alarm is required to emit a warning signal before the battery fails, usually a chirping sound.
* Give your tenants the manufacturer’s instructions on how to clean, test and replace batteries for smoke alarms (In SA it is the landlord’s responsibility to clean, test & replace batteries unless otherwise stated in the Tenancy Agreement).
* Batteries should be replaced at least once a year to ensure correct operation. It is recommended that you change your smoke alarm battery at the same time each year using a Birthday, Christmas or some other significant date to remind you.
* Landlords are responsible for supplying the smoke alarm(s) and for their installation. You will also be required to install a new battery for each smoke alarm at the commencement of each new tenancy.
* Tenants are responsible for cleaning, testing and the replacement of batteries in battery powered smoke alarms (Except VIC & SA, Landlords are responsible).
* The tenant is not responsible for the replacement of batteries in ‘hard-wired’ smoke alarm systems that have battery back-up. This is the responsibility of the landlord (except in QLD it is the tenants responsibility).
* At NO time can a tenant remove or relocate the smoke alarm or do anything to interfere with the alarm’s warning sound.
* At NO time can the tenant remove the batteries unless they are replacing them.
* At NO time can the landlord remove or relocate the smoke alarm unless it is being replaced or maintained.
* At NO time can the landlord do anything to interfere with the alarm’s warning sound.
* At NO time can the landlord remove the batteries unless they are replacing them.
* If the tenant is physically unable to change the battery the tenant is required to notify the landlord as soon as practicable after becoming aware of the need for it to be replaced.
* The condition report section of the tenancy agreement must include a specific reference to smoke alarms so that tenants and landlords are able to note and comment on the presence of smoke alarms at the beginning and end of the tenancy.

Alarm Locations:

* You should install a smoke alarm in each bedroom, hallway and living area.
* 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.
* Much better protection will be provided if you inter-connect all smoke alarms in your home, so that when one alarm operates, all alarms operate, alerting occupants throughout the house.
* Avoid installing smoke alarms too close to air conditioners, heaters, fans and similar devices, because these might affect the performance of your smoke alarms.
* To minimise false alarms, avoid installing smoke alarms close to kitchens and bathrooms. A primary reason why smoke alarms don’t operate when needed is because batteries have been removed after repeated false alarms. False alarms are often caused by steam from bathrooms or by cooking fumes. Photoelectric alarms are less prone to false alarms from cooking fumes.


Since 1 July 2007, owners of homes and units have been required to install smoke alarms in all pre 1997 – homes. Since 1 July 1997, mains-wired smoke alarms have been required in all new or significantly renovated homes and units. Smoke alarms should be supported by a home fire evacuation plan.

For further information visit QLD Fire & Rescue Service

In line with the Building Code of Australia, all new and renovated residential buildings, constructed after August 1997 must have working smoke alarms connected directly to the mains power supply with a battery back-up.

New legislation requires all owners of residential properties to install and have working photoelectric smoke alarms by 1 November 2011.

Following November 1 if you an ionisation smoke alarm already installed you don’t have to change over to the photoelectric type until:

* The existing smoke alarm ceases to work
* You sell your home or
* You start or renew a Tenancy Agreement

For further information visit Northern Territory Fire & Rescue Services

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.
For further information visit Fire & Rescue NSW

All homes built since 1994 are required to have mains-powered smoke alarms installed.
For Further information visit ACT Fire & Rescue.

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

For further information visit the MFB or CFA website.

Houses built since 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.

In SA the smoke alarm is the responsibility of the landlord who is required to maintain them in a working condition at all times. This means that the landlord is required to change the battery/backup battery every year and not the tenant. Tenants are not required to clean or test the alarms unless it is included in the tenancy agreement. If not included the responsibility falls back to the landlord, a not cleaned alarm could not be deemed to be properly working. Landlords should clean the alarm when they change the battery every year.

Cleaning of the alarm is done with a vacuum cleaner not a brush as that would just push the dust into the sensor.

The landlord is also to ensure that alarms are replaced every 10 years (that includes 240 volt type)

For further information including advice on a Home Fire Escape Plan visit Metropolitan Fire Service of SA.

Recent legislation was passed for all residential properties to have mains powered smoke alarms installed from 1 October 2009. In dwellings where the construction of the building does not permit a space to conceal the wiring or where no mains power is available, smoke alarms with a 10 year battery life are permitted.

Under Building Regulations Amendment 2009 an electrical contractor must install mains powered smoke alarms before a property is sold or a new rental lease agreement has been signed.

Rental properties have until 1 October 2011 to comply with the new regulations.

For further information visit Fire & Emergency Services Authority of Western Australia

Tasmanian building regulations require, since August 1997, that all new residential buildings and all other residential buildings that have renovations completed for which a building permit is required, have at least one smoke alarm installed, connected directly to the building’s electrical supply. These smoke alarms must have a battery back-up.

For further information visit Tasmania Fire Service

Smoke alarms are mandatory – Only working smoke alarms save lives.