It seems that hardly a week goes by without the report of a house fire somewhere in the country, often with tragic loss of life. Sadly, there are many reports from these fires of a lack of maintenance of existing smoke alarms, and some private homes still do not have them installed at all. Where they are installed and operational, many times these alarms are the only warning that the occupants are in grave danger.
Smoke Alarms in Rental Properties a Legal Requirement
In rental properties, it is a legal requirement for smoke alarms to be installed and operating. The landlord is responsible for the installation of the alarms, and for new batteries to be installed at the beginning of every new tenancy. The tenant is responsible for the cleaning and maintenance (except in South Australia) and the alarms are required to be checked and mentioned in the condition reports at the start and end of the tenancy.
As part of providing effective property management, we are very particular about checking the status and condition of the smoke alarms in the residences under our management. Some of our properties are timber Queensland-style buildings that were constructed prior to the 1940s. Once a fire takes hold in this type of building it is almost impossible to contain, so working smoke alarms are essential to protect the occupants.
Smoke Inhalation Deadly to Sleeping Occupants
Slow burning or smouldering fires release not only choking smoke, but poisonous toxins, often at night when the occupants are asleep. During sleep our sense of smell is drastically reduced and this is why many fire victims have been found to have died from smoke inhalation well before any flames have come close to them.
The newer photoelectric smoke alarms are designed to detect these types of fires much sooner than the ionisation types. Also, they are less sensitive to the heat generated by bathroom steam and cooking. This reduces the incidents of false alarms that annoy residents enough for them to remove the batteries from older smoke alarms.
Replace Smoke Alarms Every Ten Years
At Image Property Management we count a well maintained property as one of three key criteria we use to measure our success. We believe that properly positioned, operational smoke alarms are part of a well maintained property, not just because it is the law but because our owners are relying on us to ensure the safety of their tenants.
Smoke alarms usually last for about 10 years, so we advise our property owners to replace their older alarms with photoelectric ones and to follow the positioning instructions issued by the fire safety experts. This may mean they need to purchase additional alarms, but if this small outlay can prevent thousands of dollars in property damage or worse still, loss of life, it is a small price to pay.