It’s a good time to upgrade your smoke alarms as Consumer NZ recommends that older ionisation-type smoke alarms should no longer be sold.

These alarms give much less warning of smouldering fires, such as those caused by faulty electrical wiring, curtains draped over a heater, or a hot ember igniting upholstery foam, making it less likely you or your tenants can exit safely.

You can identify an ionisation alarm from a radioactive symbol somewhere on the alarm body – it may be underneath, so you might need to remove it to check.

The Residential Tenancies Act requires all new smoke alarms to be photoelectric long life battery. The New Zealand Fire Service also recommends photoelectric alarms.

If you own or live in a rental property, make sure you’re aware of your responsibilities:

Landlords must ensure working smoke alarms are installed at the start of a tenancy
Existing ionisation alarms can stay where they are, but all new smoke alarms must be long-life battery photoelectric models.
Tenants must not remove smoke alarms, and are responsible for replacing dead batteries.

The Smoke Alarm requirements in Rental Properties:

Smoke alarms must be installed:
within 3 meters of each bedroom door, or in every room where a person sleeps
in each level or story of a multi-story or multi-level home
in all rental homes, boarding houses, rental caravans, and self-contained sleep-outs.

All new smoke alarms must:

be photoelectric
have a battery life of at least eight years, or be hard-wired
installed according to the manufacturer’s instructions
meet international standards.
Existing smoke alarms do not need to be replaced if they are working, and have not passed the manufacturer’s expiry date.

Landlords and tenants are responsible for maintaining smoke alarms
Landlords must ensure smoke alarms:

are in working order
are working at the start of each new tenancy.
Tenants must:

not damage, remove, or disconnect a smoke alarm
replace dead batteries during the tenancy if there are older-style smoke alarms with replaceable batteries
let the landlord know if there are any problems with the smoke alarms as soon as possible.
Landlords have the right to enter a rental home to comply with smoke alarm requirements after 24 hours’ notice between the hours of 8 am and 7 pm.

Landlords and tenants could be fined up to $4,000 for not meeting their obligations.

About Consumer NZ’s smoke alarm test
The test, based on the UL217 standard for smoke alarms, was conducted at an independent lab. Multiple alarms were placed in a “smoke-sensitivity chamber”. Smoke was introduced from flaming wood, flaming oil, smouldering wood chips, and smouldering upholstery foam. We tested three samples of each alarm model and assessed their response to smoke compared to three control sensors.