Laws in the proposed Residential Tenancies Amendment Bill have now been passed and come into force. These changes aim to reduce fire related injuries and deaths, making homes safer for the million New Zealanders who live in rental accommodation.

By 1 July 2016 all residential rental properties covered by the RTA must meet the following regulatory requirements:

  • There must be a minimum of one working smoke alarm within 3 metres of each bedroom door, and in a self-contained caravan, sleepout or similar there must be a minimum of one working smoke alarm.
  • The landlord is responsible for making sure smoke alarms are in working order at the beginning of every new tenancy.
  • The tenant is responsible for replacing batteries (if required) during their tenancy.
  • In multi-storey units there must be one smoke alarm on each level within the household unit.
  • Long life photoelectric smoke alarms are now required where there are no existing alarms. When existing smoke alarms are replaced, the replacements must be long life photoelectric smoke alarms.
  • Hard wired smoke alarms are also acceptable.
  • All smoke alarms must be replaced in accordance with the manufacturer’s recommended replacement date stated on the alarm.
  • All new and replacement smoke alarms in rental properties are to be installed in accordance with placement requirements provided in the manufacturer’s instructions. The illustrations below from New Zealand Standard 4514 provide a simple guide on where to place smoke alarms. You can also find helpful information on the NZ Fire Service’s website.
  • When smoke alarms are installed or replaced, you should ensure the alarms you purchase comply with the manufacturing standard: Australian Standard AS3786:1993 (this should be displayed prominently on the packaging).
  • It is an unlawful act for tenants to cause or permit any interference with, or to render inoperative, any means of escape from fire – which includes smoke alarms. The maximum fine for this offence is $3,000.

Note: the regulations don’t override any additional compliance requirements for smoke alarms in other legislation e.g. multi-unit residential complexes, student accommodation or boarding houses.

What we at Whittle Knight & Boatwood Ltd are doing about this:

As you know, most of our properties already have working smoke detectors (we check them during our routine inspections, we began this initiative a few years ago). However with these new changes taking effect, what this means is that when the current smoke detectors stop working, become faulty or expire (all smoke detectors have an expiry date), then they will need to be replaced with the long life photoelectric alarms.

Not all the smoke detectors in our properties have been installed in the correct positions (be it on the ceiling or perhaps not within 3 metres of the bedrooms, we have just gone with whatever was existing), therefore we have to have them all inspected to make sure that they do comply. If you feel you are capable of doing this yourself, please advise your property manager and she can arrange for you to go to your property(ies) to check and install as necessary.

If you are overseas, or not comfortable with doing this yourself, we can arrange to get this done. The likely cost of this would be around $50+GST (to be confirmed) plus the cost of any additional complying smoke detectors that may need to be installed.