Smoke Alarms - laws for VIC Property Owners
This information has been provided by Australian Conveyancing Services and is applicable in Victoria only.
This article draws on information contained in Fact Sheets issued by Victorian Building Authority.
VIC owners of residential property in most circumstances must install Smoke alarms must be connected to your building's power mains as well as having a battery back-up, unless your building was built before 1 August 1997, where a battery-powered back-up meets the Regulations..
This law is designed to minimise the number of deaths in house fires, many of which occur at night time when the occupants are asleep. An estimate of only 80% of dwellings in VIC comply with smoke alarm legislation.
Who needs to install smoke alarms?
The regulation requires owners of new and existing houses, townhouses, and units (homes) to ensure that smoke alarms are installed in their residences. Other dwellings are also included (eg relocatable homes, residences above shops, etc). Failure to do so will incur a penalty.
There are some exceptions, such as certain moveable dwellings, and buildings in which nobody sleeps, however these exceptions are very limited.
For more detail on dwellings that are included/excluded, see the brochure Smoke alarms for residential buildings Smoke Alarms Regulation 2006
Smoke Alarms - laws for VIC Property Owners
Smoke Alarms for Residential buildings
Owners of homes that have smoke alarms installed in compliance with a current or previous requirement need take no additional action. Also, homes where smoke alarms have already been voluntarily installed are not required to take action if their smoke alarms are in good working order and in the right locations (see below for details).
How does this affect Sellers?
Persons intending to sell their homes who enter into a Contract on or after 1 August 1997 are affected by the legislation will be legally required to have installed the smoke alarms into the property they are selling.
How does this affect Buyers?
The regulation includes provisions for fines to be issued for failure to install smoke alarms after 1 August 2006, however there are no new inspection powers. Also, from 1 August 1997, it will be an offence to interfere with or remove an existing smoke alarm, unless it is to repair, maintain or replace the alarm.
Buyers entering into a Contract to purchase a residential property should make sure that the Seller has Smoke Alarms. Buyers should check the property to ensure that complying smoke alarms have been fitted.
Type of Smoke Alarms required
Any smoke alarm that complies with the Australian Standard (AS)3786 – 1993, Smoke Alarms (which should be noted on the product packaging) will meet the new requirements. These alarms can be hard-wired (powered from the mains electricity supply) or battery-operated at the owners’ choice.
Where to locate smoke alarms to meet the new requirement
The number of smoke alarms required will depend on the size and layout of each particular home. For houses and townhouses (Class 1a buildings) and manufactured/relocatable homes, smoke alarms are required on or near the ceiling in the following areas:
- in storeys containing bedrooms: in every corridor or hallway associated with a bedroom, or, if there is no corridor or hallway, between the part of the home containing the bedroom and the rest of the dwelling; and
- in any storey not containing bedrooms. In these storeys smoke alarms should be located in the path of travel most likely to be used by those evacuating the home.
For apartments, blocks of flats (Class 2 buildings) and residences over shops or caretaker flats (Class 4 parts of buildings) smoke alarms are required on or near the ceiling in the following areas in each flat or unit:
- in every corridor or hallway associated with a bedroom, or, if there is no corridor or hallway, between the part of the unit containing the bedroom and the rest of the dwelling; and
in any storey not containing bedrooms. In these storeys smoke alarms should be located in the path of travel most likely to be used by those evacuating the unit.
For an excellent article on location of smoke alarms click here.
Penalties for non-compliance
The regulation includes provisions for fines to be issued for failure to install smoke alarms after a fine of up to $600 could be imposed on an owner who fails
to comply with the smoke alarm requirements of the Regulations. Also, from 1 August 1997, it will be an offence to interfere with or remove an existing smoke alarm, unless it is to repair, maintain or replace the alarm.