Smoke Alarms and Industry Accepted Best Practice

'Industry Best Practice' means…
"A management idea asserting that, for a given industry, there is a body of techniques, methods, processes, activities, incentives and/or rewards that is more effective at delivering a particular outcome than any other body of techniques, methods, processes, etc."
Source – the holy grail of information - a quick Google search.

When a fire occurs at a rental premises, the owner of the property and their property manager will be required to supply evidence that they met their legal obligations. In the event that tragedy strikes, a coroner will likely investigate what the ‘industry accepted best practice’ is. In the case of residential rental properties, the industry accepted best practice is to outsource the supply and testing of smoke alarms to trained smoke alarm service providers.

Landlords have specific responsibilities in regard to smoke alarms and a duty of care to their tenants in a number of ways. Landlords must meet the legislative requirements and building codes applicable under the Residential Tenancies Act 1986 and as specified in the Tenancies (Smoke Alarms and Insulation) Regulations 2016.

Landlords must ensure smoke alarms:
• Are working at the start of each new tenancy
• Remain in working order during the tenancy

Can landlords perform their own inspections and servicing of smoke alarms? In short, yes, landlords can install smoke alarms in their properties.

However, it is highly unlikely that they have the expertise of a specialist smoke alarm service provider. Proper positioning of alarms to comply with building codes and regulations, along with ensuring their full functionality, can be quite challenging. For instance, can the landlord check that the power supply is actually connected to the 240v alarm? Can the landlord check the decibel output of the alarm and that it is in the required range? Can the landlord check the manufacture and/or expiry date of the alarm. These are some complexities that require the expertise of professionals.

There could be significant outcomes for a landlord if a fire should occur and the property is not compliant, or the alarms have not been serviced in accordance with the legislation. Additionally, the landlord’s insurance on the property may be void if a failure to comply with all legislation is proven. It is a far better ‘risk management strategy’ for a landlord to employ a specialist to ensure compliance and to protect their valuable asset, and the lives of their tenants.

Property managers should not test smoke alarms as they are not qualified smoke alarm service providers. This is a crucial safety matter that should be trusted to trained professionals. The Tenancy Compliance and Investigations Team (TCIT) are unwavering in their commitment to ensure all rental premises in New Zealand are compliant with smoke alarm legislation. TCIT regularly audit the tenancy documentation from property management offices and private landlords each month, including Harcourts.

Failure to prove as a landlord that your property is compliant could result in penalties of up to $7,200.