Are you across it? Are your Landlord’s across it?
You thought you had years to prepare, but all of a sudden the deadline for the new Queensland Smoke Alarm legislation is imminent, pressing a lot closer than you think. I’d been exceptionally nervous if I had a large rent roll to make complaint before the deadline.
The deadline for the upgrades is January 1st, 2022, but with around two million households in Queensland as of the last census, there’s going to be a lot of properties requiring the work to make them compliant with the new legislation. We commenced a two-year rollout plan for our management’s from January this year. After meeting with countless smoke alarm companies and electricians, we finally settled on a partner to help us navigate the huge task ahead.
The biggest challenge we have faced so far is educating our landlords into accepting this is an unavoidable cost, we believe the closer the deadline approaches the more expensive the cost will become. Our two-year plan hasn’t been without hurdles and COVID has played a huge part in interrupting progress, we paused all upgrades for three months over the lockdown stage. We are now continuing to forge forward and roll out upgrades one suburb at a time.
With so little time to waste now, we thought we would share some of the steps we have taken to navigate the new smoke alarm upgrades for the properties in our rent roll.
Educate your Landlord’s
Help them understand the background story as to why the legislation is changing in the first place, a lot of Landlord’s in our area are from inter-state. They have heard murmurs about the impending changes, but don’t know the full extent of what is happening. By assisting your Landlord’s to understand the why, what, and when, you will be faced with less resistance when it comes to conversations about the upgrades and the price of it.
If you haven’t looked into it, the background story is as follows. On the 23rd of August 2011, there was a fire at a property in Slacks Creek, in Brisbane’s South East. The fire was to cause the greatest loss of life in a domestic house fire in Australian history. Eleven people lost their lives, including eight children under the age of eighteen. None of the smoke alarms worked on that fateful night.
This tragic event was followed by a Coroner’s Inquest, where several recommendations were given, they have now formed new Legislation under The Fire and Emergency Services (QFES)(Domestic Smoke Alarms) Amendment Act 2016.
Photoelectric Smoke Alarms be used – Photoelectric smoke alarms are superior quality and currently compulsory in commercial premises. In essence, the photoelectric alarm responds more quickly to a broader range of fires and is less likely to cause false alarms (meaning people are less likely to interfere with them).
Interconnected and Hard Wired Smoke Alarms – This means when one alarm operates they all trigger. This provides a loud warning to more parts of the home than would be possible with a single alarm. This will only be possible if all alarms are the same type and are compatible with each other.
Smoke Alarms in the Bedrooms – The need for smoke alarms in the bedrooms is due to a closed bedroom door limiting the occupant hearing an alarm.
A practiced Escape Plan is the other critical component of safe evacuation.
Understand the Legislation
From the 1st of January 2022, the new (QFES Domestic Smoke Alarm) Legislation comes into effect. This essentially means that at the commencement of a new lease or lease renewal a rental property must meet the new legal requirements. This is also applicable to the sale of any residential property, and it must be compliant with the new Smoke Alarm Legislation before it can be sold.
The Smoke Alarm requirements under the new Legislation:
A smoke alarm must be installed in every bedroom of a home
A smoke alarm must be installed at every entry and exit point of a property
Two-story or townhouses must have their smoke alarms interconnected with wireless Bluetooth (Home Base)
All smoke alarms must be powered by a 240 Volt or Lithium Battery
Alarm All smoke alarms must be interconnected to each other (same brand)
All smoke alarms must be Photoelectric rather than Ionisation
All smoke alarms must meet the Australian standard 3786:2014
All existing hardwired alarms need to be replaced with a Photoelectric alarm
Educate your team on Most Commonly Asked Questions
This is essential. Your team needs to know what changes are happening, why, and when. They should also be armed with answers to some of the most commonly asked questions to assist client inquiry.
Why a Photoelectric Alarm?
When you sleep your sense of smell also sleeps. If a fire starts toxic fumes can overcome you, photoelectric alarms see smoke and can alert you early, so you have more chance to escape.
Why do they need to be interconnected?
This means when one alarm is triggered they will all go off. So, it won’t matter where you are in the house. Interconnected alarms are critical for an early warning and quick escape.
Why do they have to be the same brand?
They won’t all talk to each other if they aren’t the same brand. So, when one alarm goes off they all go off.
Do all my smoke alarms have to be replaced?
Existing smoke alarms manufactured more than 10 years ago will have to be replaced with a photoelectric alarm. Existing hardwired alarms that aren’t photoelectric have to be replaced as well.
Why do the bedrooms need an alarm?
The alarms are required in the bedroom so that if a door is closed the occupant will still be able to hear the alarms and have that early detection to escape.
What if my property is Two Storeys or more?
A wireless Bluetooth device commonly called a Home base will need to be installed, this allows all the alarms on all levels to be interconnected.
Can anyone install the new alarms?
Any person can legally install a battery-powered alarm. However, the 240 Volt photoelectric alarms need to be connected to an electricity supply and must be connected by a licensed electrician.
Where do the smoke alarms need to be installed?
Each storey of a property
In hallways that connect bedrooms and the rest of the house
The entry and exit points of a house
Each bedroom, If there are no bedrooms on a storey then at least one alarm should be installed in the most likely path of travel to exit the dwelling
How much will it cost?
This will depend on who you work with to carry out the upgrades on the properties in your portfolios.
Source out your supplier
There are several companies currently in the market offering the compliance work for Real Estate agencies. Do your homework and ensure you come up with the most competitive pricing for your clients. Some companies offer the upgrades as well as the ongoing compliance, but again conduct your research before making a decision. Don’t leave it too long though.
Have a plan of attack
How are you going to get all your properties compliant before the deadline? With offices across two locations, we decided to roll out our upgrades per suburb and work on a two-year progression plan. We initially tried a few ways to get started, but have found that reaching out first with an email with all the relevant information including estimates of pricing, and then following up with a phone call to answer any further questions, and seek our Landlord’s final approval, before going ahead works best. Make sure you have a system for tracking which Landlords are happy to conduct the upgrades themselves to ensure relevant reminders are sent leading up to the deadline.
Whatever you do don’t leave it till the last minute. You risk prices skyrocketing as everyone across the state scrambles to get their upgrades completed before the due date, you also potentially risk Landlord’s being out of pocket if they are unable to secure new tenants until the property is compliant with the new Legislation. Ensure your sales team is also across the changes as it will affect their ability to complete sales once the deadline arrives. Unfortunately, this is an unavoidable cost, and every property in Queensland has to meet the same stringent legislative requirements.