Strata and Smoke Detector Responsibility

Rosy Sullivan

 Since our newsletter regarding smoke detectors in September, we have had a number of enquiries relating to the responsibility for maintenance of smoke detectors in strata complexes.  These questions have come from strata managers and property managers, as the issue affects both roles.

The basic rule is as follows:

Repair and maintenance of smoke alarms is an individual owner's (lot owner/landlord) responsibility with the only exception to this requirement being if the smoke alarm was installed at the time the building was constructed. Then it is the responsibility of the Owners Corporation for the repairs and maintenance to the systems.  However, the resident remains responsible for regular replacement of the batteries for all battery-powered alarms.

This has been confirmed by Land and Property Information, who released a circular outlining who is responsible for items and areas in a strata scheme.  It is stated in the circular that the Owners Corporation is responsible for the repair and maintenance of smoke detectors if they are connected to the fire board in a building. Individual lot owners are responsible for the repair and maintenance of smoke detectors within their lots.

So if the smoke detectors were installed because a strata scheme did not pass its Fire Safety Certificate, the individual lot owners are personally responsible for the repair and maintenance of the smoke detectors. 

It was noted in our September newsletter that The Environmental Planning and Assessment Regulation 2000 was amended in 2006 to include comprehensive guidelines for the installation of smoke alarms in residential properties [see Part 9, Division 7A].   This Regulation calls for owners of a dwelling within a residential scheme, not the owner's corporation, to install compliant smoke alarms where smoke alarms are not currently installed.  The cost of the installation is to be met by the individual owner.

This regulation also makes provisions to enable a lot owner to install the smoke alarms without the need to seek consent from the Owners Corporation to drill into common property (the ceiling) to affix them, at the lot owner’s cost.

It should be reinforced that the owner of a strata lot, who leases the strata lot, is responsible for the installation of smoke alarms in rented premises.