Over the last 12 years in Queensland there have been 150 deaths directly attributed to residential house fires.

A number of Coronial inquests into those fires have noted, among other things, that these deaths occurred in properties where smoke alarms were either not present, or were not properly maintained.

In response to these Coronial reports the Queensland Government has recently implemented changes to the regulation of smoke alarms in residential properties, creating arguably the most effective and comprehensive smoke alarm legislation in the country.

If you are the owner of a domestic (i.e. residential) property in Queensland you will now be subject to a number of legal obligations regarding the installation and maintenance of smoke alarms in that dwelling, regardless of whether or not you live there.

What are the Changes?

As of 1 January 2017, the following changes apply:

  • smoke alarms must be replaced:
    • within ten years of their manufacture date (not the date of installation); or

    • if they fail when routinely tested.

  • only compliant photoelectric smoke alarms (see note 1 below) may be installed whenever a smoke alarm is replaced or a new smoke alarm is installed.
  • all smoke alarms in the building must be interconnected so that when one alarm is triggered, all alarms are activated (see note 2 below).
  • all smoke alarms must operate when tested.
  • smoke alarms must be installed in specified areas of the properly and must be either:
    • hardwired into the dwelling’s electricity supply; or

    • powered by a non-removable 10 year battery (see note 3 below).

If you are a landlord of a residential property, you have 30 days before the start of a tenancy to test each smoke alarm in the property.  If you are a tenant in a residential property, you must test each smoke alarm in the properly once every twelve (12) months during the term of the tenancy.

When do the Changes Apply?

The relevant changes are to be phased in over a 10 year period.  However:

  • new or substantially renovated homes (where application for building approval is made after 31 December 2016) must be compliant with the new legislation from 1 January 2017.
  • all dwellings that are sold or leased by 31 December 2021 must comply with the new legislation at the time a contract of sale or tenancy agreement is entered into.
  • all other homes must be in compliance with the legislative changes by 21 December 2026.

Failure to comply with the legislative changes may result in a fine of up to $609.50.

If you are preparing to sell or purchase a residential property, or if you would like any further information or to discuss this issue please contact our Commercial Property team on (07) 4963 2000 or via our online contact form.

Notes:​

  1. Photoelectric smoke alarms are said to respond faster to smoke than other types of smoke alarms in house fires.

  2. This is required in an effort to provide residents maximum time for escape.  Accordingly to the Government, these wireless devices do not require installation by an electrician and can be easily installed by the home owner.

  3. These continuous power sources are required in an effort to reduce the risk of alarms being rendered useless by flat batteries.

Rebecca Rutland
Solicitor
Business & Property