Confusion around smoke alarms risking renters’ lives

Confusion over who is responsible for replacing smoke alarm batteries in rental properties could put lives at risk, warns a prominent landlord insurance provider.

Terri Scheer Insurance says there is an obvious flaw in the smoke alarm maintenance process.

When it is time to change the clocks for daylight savings, households are urged to change their smoke alarm batteries at the same time. However, this is only required of landlords in South Australia, with the responsibility falling on tenants in other states and territories.

Terri Scheer Insurance said tenants could be unknowingly putting themselves at risk.

Terri Scheer Insurance executive manager Carolyn Parrella said it is the landlord’s responsibility to ensure a smoke alarm is supplied and installed in their investment property at the commencement of a tenancy.

“While strata companies and body corporates assume responsibility for building maintenance in apartments and duplexes, generally this excludes maintaining smoke alarms,” Ms Parrella said.

Regardless of who is legally responsible for changing smoke alarm batteries, landlords should proactively ensure smoke alarms are in working order, she said.

“Putting your tenants’ safety first will also help you to protect your investment property.

“This could include sending a yearly reminder letter to tenants. Likewise, landlords may choose to change the batteries themselves once a year during rental inspections. This will help to provide peace of mind that their tenant and their investment are safe.”

Ms Parrella said the required number of smoke alarms differs from state-to-state, but it is better to be safe.

“Additional smoke alarms are a wise investment for landlords. Both new and old homes are susceptible to fire.”

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