Important Smoke Alarm Information For Property Managers

Contributed By: Hotspots Australia on

New smoke alarm legislation in Queensland came into play from 1 January 2017 and is expected to drastically cut the number of deaths from house fires. The new legislation requires every domestic home, including rental properties, to have smoke alarms that are photoelectric, interconnected, and either hard-wired or powered by a 10-year lithium battery.

For property managers this means additional obligations with regards to the installation and maintenance of smoke alarms. Smoke alarms are currently required by law in all rental properties but the type of alarm installed is no longer something that can be left to the owner’s discretion. Failure to install the correct type of alarm and not checking it works properly has legal consequences if a fire occurs and causes injury or death.

Here’s all the information you need know about smoke alarms as a property manager.

Photoelectric smoke alarms vs ionisation smoke alarms

If your client doesn’t know what type of smoke alarms are installed in their property, then they’ll need to get them all changed to photoelectric smoke alarms. If they are currently using ionisation smoke alarms then these should be supplemented with photoelectric alarms.

Photoelectric alarms use a light and sensor to detect smoke, while ionisation alarms monitor the electrical balance of the air.

Why are photoelectric smoke alarms the industry standard and not ionisation?

Tests on photoelectric smoke alarms have shown that photoelectric alarms respond to the full spectrum of fires and are particularly sensitive to smouldering fires and dense smoke from foam furnishings and electrical wiring. More people die from smoke inhalation than actual flames, and ionisation alarms are a lot slower to respond to smoke, on average 15 to 20 minutes slower. Up to 20 – 20% of the time they don’t activate at all which is a worrying statistic.

Ionisation alarms can also be annoying because they’re more likely to go off from cooking odours, burnt toast or even steam from the shower. If it happens too often people get fed up and disable them, leaving the inhabitants of the property completely unprotected if there’s a fire.

When do smoke alarms in rental properties need to be switched?

From January 2022, you must also ensure that smoke alarms are photoelectric. Any photoelectric smoke alarms that are over 10 years old or near the end of their service life need to be replaced entirely.

You also need to make sure that enough smoke alarms are installed, they are hardwired or powered by a 10-year lithium battery, interconnected and in the correct position. There should be:

  • One in each bedroom
  • One in the hallways between bedrooms
  • One in the likely exit routes for the property

Tenants also need to be made aware of their responsibilities for maintenance of the alarm. These include: testing and cleaning smoke alarms once every 12 months, replacing flat or nearly flat batteries, advising if any issues with the smoke alarm, not removing the alarm or its battery (other than to replace it), or painting over it.

The schedule for replacing smoke alarms and batteries


If a photoelectric smoke alarm is ‘hardwired’ then it is connected to a property’s 240v mains power supply and will have a backup battery in case of a power cut, this backup battery must be replaced every 12 months. Hardwired smoke alarms are considered more reliable than alarms powered by battery alone, but they must be installed by a licensed electrician in accordance with the Queensland Electricity Safety Act.

Battery powered

A stand alone photoelectric smoke alarm is required to have a lithium battery that is manufactured to power the alarm for at least 10 years without being recharged.

The entire smoke alarm unit whether hardwired or battery powered, must be replaced every 10 years.

The difference between in-unit smoke alarms and the fire alarms in the common areas

To be effective, an installed smoke alarm must able to detect smoke from all types of fires, be well maintained so it operates properly, and audible through closed doors. If a property has multiple alarms they need to be interconnected so if one alarm goes off, it will trigger the other alarms to go off too, ensuring a higher chance of early warning and quick escape during a house fire.

If you’re managing an apartment in a block of apartments, it pays to be aware that the common area (or commercial) fire systems are completely different to the smoke alarms within the units and are serviced by the Body Corporate. The common area alarm systems are set up to detect fires in the halls, basement and storage areas of the apartment building.

The schedule for inspections of smoke alarms

Inspections must be done every time a lease is signed for a new tenant or renewed for an existing tenant. As a property manager you could incur a penalty if smoke alarms within a rental property are faulty or expired. Properties in Queensland with expired or faulty smoke alarms currently incur a penalty of 5 penalty units or $630.75.

The importance of using a licensed inspector on a regular basis

If you manage a large portfolio of properties it’s quite likely that a property with faulty smoke alarms could slip through the cracks. It’s important to use a licensed inspector on a regular basis to ensure that all the properties you manage are compliant with smoke alarm legislation.

Hotspots Australia is a leading smoke alarm compliance company that has extensive experience working with property managers. We change 240V alarms on the spot as we only use electricians on every service. Give us a call today to find out more about our annual maintenance and compliance subscriptions packages to make your job easier.

1 Comment

  1. Nice post. A lot of people die each year due to fire accidents so it is very important to maintain smoke alarms at home or workplace to ignore fire accidents. A regular inspection of your home must be done to check if smoke alarms are faulty or expired.

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