Smoke Alarms & the Residential Tenancies Act – know your responsibilities

The Residential Tenancies Act (RTA) has tightened up its rules and regulations to ensure the safety of tenants throughout New Zealand – an imperative move considering 89% of fatal domestic fires occur in rental properties in NZ. As part of the RTA, from the 1st of July 2016 all residential rental properties are required to have long-life, photoelectric smoke alarms installed. These alarms must last for a minimum of 8 years or be a hard-wired system. Existing smoke alarms do not need to be replaced immediately as long as they are working. When they stop working or pass the manufacturer’s expiry or recommended replacement date, they must be replaced with long-life photoelectric alarms or a hard-wired smoke alarm system as above. Not complying with standards can have significant penalties for landlords.

CAVIUS provides a small 10 year, long-life photoelectric smoke alarm which meets all NZ building compliance standards.

For a more comprehensive outline of smoke alarms and the RTA visit

Landlord and tenant responsibilities

Both landlords and tenants have responsibilities to keep smoke alarms working.

Landlords must make sure smoke alarms are always in good working order and are working at the start of each new tenancy, including having working batteries. Failure to comply with these standards could result in a $4000 fine for the landlord.

Tenants must replace expired batteries during the tenancy, if there are older-style smoke alarms with replaceable batteries. If a tenant tampers with a smoke alarm or fails to replace batteries (in older models) they can be fined $3000.

Why photoelectric?
As well as being part of the RTA, photoelectric alarms are also recommended by the NZ Fire service.  This is due to the advanced level of technology within a photoelectric alarm which detects both stages of fires faster. Photoelectric alarms use a light sensor, which when obstructed by smoke, will sound the alarm. Ionisation is another type of smoke alarm technology which has been banned altogether in many Australian states.

Protecting your home

For the comprehensive protection of your home or rental property, CAVIUS recommends the use of both smoke alarms and thermal heat alarms. Place smoke alarms in every bedroom, hallway and lounge. For the garage, laundry, kitchen, and workshop (where fast, flaming fires are more likely to start), thermal heat alarms are recommended.