Smoke Alarms to be Compulsory
The Government has given landlords until July next year to install long-life smoke alarms in rental properties that don’t have alarms, and until July 2019 to provide insulation where it is possible to retrofit properties.
Tenants will be responsible for replacing batteries and notifying landlords of defects in existing smoke alarms, and any replacements must be long-life brands. The proposed standards require a minimum of one working smoke alarm in a hall or similar area, within three metres of each bedroom door.
Housing Minister Nick Smith said a package of reforms to the Residential Tenancies Act that he announced early last month was a more pragmatic and efficient way of improving housing standards than a rental warrant of fitness scheme. He said the insulation retrofitting of 180,000 homes is expected to cost $600 million and installing smoke alarms for 120,000 homes currently without alarms is expected to cost $7 million. Officials estimate the flow-on effect on rents for a property requiring ceiling and underfloor insulation and a new smoke alarm to be $3.20 per week.
The package, to be introduced to Parliament by October, also includes new powers to prosecute landlords for breaking tenancy regulations, particularly where there is risk to the health and safety of tenants. It also provides for tenants to be able to take concerns to the Tenancy Tribunal without fear of retaliatory evictions.
Where tenants abandon a property with no intention of returning, affected landlords will benefit from a new 10-day process introduced to enable re-tenanting of such properties. Mr Smith said the current process could take up to six weeks, leaving a house empty and the landlord out of pocket.
The reforms would be supported by a $1.5 million information campaign aimed at improving compliance with existing and new tenancy law requirements, as well as providing guidance on practical ways to make homes healthier.
Mr Smith said the package was a more pragmatic and efficient way of improving housing standards than a housing warrant of fitness scheme. “Such a scheme would cost $100 million per year, or $225 per house for inspections alone, and these costs would be passed on to tenants in rents,” he said.
“Significant issues like leaky roofs, insecure doors, excessive dampness and unsafe wiring are already covered by existing regulations, and the better response is tougher enforcement. Other issues like window stays, glass visibility safety strips and hot water temperature are best improved by education.”