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Have you upgraded your smoke alarms?

In May 2016, Parliament passed a law change to amend the Residential Tenancies Act (RTA) with regards to smoke alarms and insulation, amongst other smaller changes.

These amendments have been introduced with the aim to reduce fire-related injuries and deaths and to make homes warmer, drier and safer for the million New Zealanders who live in rental accommodation.

How will this affect you as landlords? Well, as of the 1st July 2016, all residential rental properties are required to have working smoke alarms installed within three metres of each bedroom door and sleep-out, and there must be a minimum of one working smoke alarm on each level of the property.

The landlord is responsible for making sure smoke alarms are in working order at the beginning of every new tenancy, and the tenant is responsible for replacing batteries (if required) during their tenancy.

Smoke alarms that are newly installed, or which replace expired or faulty ones, must be long life (10 year) photoelectric smoke alarms, however hard-wired smoke alarms are also acceptable.

As of the 1st July 2019, all residential rental properties in New Zealand must be fitted with ceiling and floor insulation as a minimum (although some minor exemptions apply). The minimum thickness of ceiling insulation has been set at 70mm covering all accessible areas above habitable spaces. Timber subfloors are required to have underfloor insulation in reasonable condition, covering all the accessible subfloor area beneath habitable spaces. Concrete slabs count as underfloor insulation. These requirements will bring properties to a minimum standard as per the 1978 Building Act. Some properties may be eligible for insulation subsidies.

As of 1st July 2016, further to the smoke alarm requirement, all new tenancy agreements must state the level of insulation in the property, whether it be up to the 2019 requirement or not.

In immediate summary of impacts, all properties must have working smoke alarms in the correct placement from the 1st July 2016, and all new tenancies must state the level of insulation. As such, it would be an offence for this information to be omitted from the Tenancy Agreements that our office create. Horncastle Property Management has been working with select contractors on a fixed price of $75 + GST to assess properties coming up for re-letting to supply a report on what level of insulation is currently fitted in the property, along with a cost of $35+ GST per required smoke alarm. The installation cost of fitting these smoke alarms is included in the base assessment fee. If it has been established that your rental property does not have working smoke alarms, your Property Manager will contact you to discuss having one of these assessments take place.

Our comprehensive Property Management software has the ability for us to track the expiry date of the smoke alarms and record notes on the level of insulation to make the re-letting process faster and more efficient and to ensure that your property is compliant with the new legislation. Whilst these amendments to the act sound daunting, the immediate cost implications are low.

Your Property Manager will be in touch in the coming months to discuss if your property or properties are non-compliant and will work with you to ensure the most cost effective solutions for you.