Changes in smoke alarm legislation as part of a phased roll out programme are now in force and will affect every homeowner, landlord and those who fit and install these vital lifesaving products. Before looking at how it impacts on each and every one of these individual groups, it is worth clarifying a few definitions of some of the terms used in the legislation.
The law refers to dwellings which cover units (Class 2), and houses and townhouses (Class 1A). Photoelectric smoke alarms must be fitted, and this refers to the way these alarms are able to detect smoke. Interconnection of alarms means that if one alarm is activated, then the rest will also sound. These devices can be wired or wireless.
When speaking about hardwiring, it refers to the connection required to the electricity supply of the domestic dwelling. A storey is the space in a building that is situated between one floor level and the roof or floor level. Finally, when talking about renovations, the term “substantial” is used, and this refers to the work under a business development improvement. However, the total building works equate to 50% of the dwelling over a 3-year period. So, bearing these definitions in mind, let’s look at the legislation changes and what it means for you.
Home owners and those who hold an existing property portfolio since 1 January 2017 should note that this legislation came into effect on that date and will have a direct impact on them. Smoke alarm units in these dwellings, since that date, have to be photoelectric, work when tested, not be less than ten years old, not contain an ionisation sensor and be interconnected with every other smoke alarm in the dwelling.
This means taking an audit of any current units in the properties owned at present and making sure they comply with the new requirements. Electricians should ensure that if asked to fit new alarms, that they meet the AS 3786-2014 standards, such as current products on the market like the LIF5800/2 and LIF5800RL/2 smoke alarm, or the LIF10YPEW and LIFWMB2.
Next, they have to be fitted on each storey and in each bedroom with one in the hall that connects the bedroom and the rest of the home. If there isn’t a hallway, a compliant smoke alarm has to be fitted in the area that is most likely to be the exit route used in an emergency. These units have to be either powered by a non-removable battery or hardwired by a qualified electrician.
Dwellings sold, leased or if a renewal of the lease is imminent
From 1st January 2017, for existing dwellings, the obligations of the landlord and tenant continue, with regard to installing and testing of smoke alarms. This should be part and parcel of the tenant’s agreement and if it is a home owner, then ensure that regular testing and maintenance of the smoke alarms are factored into routine home maintenance. When selling a property, the seller has to lodge Form 24, stating the requirements have been met with the Queensland Land Registry Office. When installing these units, electricians must ensure they issue a certificate of safety and testing. Plus, it will be a very busy period for those in the electrical trade, so ensure that for self-employed or employed electricians, a quick refresher on health and safety requirements is needed, particularly when installing products that have not been used before.
From 1st January 2022, the same conditions that are set out for existing dwellings (see section above) must be met for dwellings that are being sold, leased, or when a lease is up for renewal. Again, taking stock of the property portfolio and carrying out an audit and check of current smoke alarm systems, has got to be at the top of the list for landlords and property rental companies. It is also worth speaking to an experienced smoke alarm company that specialises in smoke alarms, to decide on which types of models they offer, will be best suited to your needs. The requirements of a house or unit of multiple occupancy is going to differ from a one-bedroom apartment, for example.
Substantial renovations and new dwellings
Property developers, as well as firms who employ electricians, and the home owner who is planning a serious home reno, should take note of the changes in the law. From 1st January 2017, the development approval process changed to ensure that applications for new builds and substantial renovations received either on that date or afterwards, brought the dwellings into compliance with new legislation. (Conditions again are same as those for existing dwellings)
When undertaking a new build or renovation, it is important to discuss the placement of smoke alarms with your electrician and builder. Likewise, if it is an existing dwelling, the electrician needs to be shown the relevant access space, such as ceiling and loft areas and told if there are any hazards of note, for example asbestos-containing materials in the older build. For stairs, sloping ceilings or open exposed ceilings with beams, there are specific requirements set out in the Building Fire Safety Regs 2008 with regard to smoke alarms, but otherwise, it is best to follow guidance on the prescribed locations.
Smoke alarms mustn’t be placed within 300mm of a light fitting, within 300mm of the corner of a wall and ceiling, nor within 400mm of the blades of a ceiling fan or 400mm of an air-con vent. Wherever possible, they should be installed on the ceiling. Sometimes it is not going to be feasible for the above prescribed locations to be met, particularly in bathrooms or kitchens where steam and smoke could affect the photoelectric smoke alarm. In this case, it is best to place them in an area that will give the best warning to those living in the dwelling. Talking to the electrician and planning where to locate these units prior to installation, is going to pay dividends.
Remember, the clock is ticking, so start getting on with making sure that you are compliant when it comes to smoke alarm legislation and ensure we all keep ourselves safe and our property secure from fire damage.
To view our smoke alarms that are compliant with the new Queensland legislation, click here. If you are a landlord or currently managing a rental property, read our article here. Find more information about work safety and the smoke alarm installations here.