Obligations when it comes to smoke alarms
Each year the New Zealand Fire Service attends around 3,500 house fires and at 80% of these smoke alarms were not installed or were not working.
The Residential Tenancies Act 1986 does not have specific sections requiring landlords to provide smoke alarms, however all properties must comply with the Building Act 2004.
This means all new houses and consented alterations provide "means of detection and warning" in the event of fire. Although the current regulation does not apply to existing properties, the requirement for alarms will usually be triggered if you are carrying out any building works that require an application for building consent from your local council.
Whether you are legally obligated to provide smoke alarms for your rental property or not, at Harcourts we recommend you do so as, very simply, it protects lives and protects your asset.
There are 2 main types of smoke alarm available:
Ionisation alarms monitor ions or electrically charged particles in the air. Smoke particles enter the sensing chamber changing the electrical balance of the air. The alarm will sound when the change in the electrical balance reaches a certain level.
Photoelectric alarms have a sensing chamber which uses a beam of light and a light sensor. Smoke particles entering the chamber change the amount of light that reaches the sensor. The alarm sounds when the smoke density reaches a preset level. The New Zealand Fire Service recommends this type of alarm.
Long–life photoelectric smoke alarms are recommended by the Fire Service and are best installed in every bedroom, living area and hallway in the house, on every level.
However this is not always practical and so the New Zealand Fire Service suggest at an absolute minimum a long-life photoelectric type smoke alarm should be installed in the hallway closest to the bedrooms. Buy and install other smoke alarms as you can afford them.
Smoke rises and moves along the ceiling. It will move up stairwells and vertical openings. When it can't rise any more it will build up, working its way down again. This means placing smoke alarms on the ceiling will provide the earliest possible warning. Ask your property manager to ensure appropriate, tamper-proof smoke alarms are installed and have them checked during property inspections. Tamper-proof alarms stop tenants taking out the batteries.
Source: New Zealand Fire Service