As part of their rental property minimum standards, Government intends to make smoke alarms compulsory in rental properties. The following is background information and further information on the proposed new laws.
New Zealand Fire Service data shows that over the last six years, 34 fatalities are known to have occurred in residential rental properties. A further 13 may have been in rental properties.
Of the known rental properties where fatalities occurred, half had no evidence of a smoke alarm having been present in the property. Fire safety education, including promotion of smoke alarms, has had limited uptake among low-income groups, who are overrepresented in rental accommodation and fire fatalities.
International evidence indicates that having operational smoke alarms can reduce fire fatalities by one third to one half. Injuries from fires are also likely to be reduced, as is damage to the landlord’s property.
All Australian states and territories require smoke alarms in residential rental properties.
Long life photoelectric alarms significantly increase the likelihood of alarms remaining operational over time, as batteries cannot be removed and last for up to 10 years. The additional cost (around $40 compared to around $12 for a 9V battery-operated smoke alarm) is recouped within 3-4 years, as batteries do not have to be replaced every 6-12 months.
Requiring smoke alarms in all residential rental properties will potentially prevent three fire fatalities per year, with annual benefits of $9.0 million (Using the New Zealand Transport Agency figure of $3.0 million for the Value of a Statistical Life).
Between 15 and 40 per cent of rental properties are estimated to currently not have operational smoke alarms. Based on a cost of $40 for a 10 year alarm, total costs over 20 years (discounted at 8%) are estimated at between $4.1 million and $10.0 million. For every dollar of costs, estimated benefits range between $8.80 and $21.40. The cost benefit analysis does not include injuries prevented and reduced property damage due to the presence of smoke alarms.
Proposal for regulations
The Minister of Housing, Nick Smith, intends to introduce the following standard for smoke alarms, as a basis for public consultation.
a. There must be at a minimum one working smoke alarm in the hall or similar, within three metres of each bedroom door. In a self-contained sleepout, caravan or similar there must be a minimum of one working smoke alarm.
b. It is the landlord’s responsibility to ensure the alarm is operational at the beginning of each new tenancy, and the tenant’s responsibility to replace batteries (if required) during the tenancy, and report defective smoke alarms to the landlord.
c. Long life (10 year) photoelectric alarms are required to be installed where there are no existing alarms.
d. Where there are existing alarms, these are to be replaced by long life photoelectric alarms at the end of the life of the existing alarm. Hardwired smoke alarms are also acceptable.
The position of the New Zealand Property Investors’ Federation (NZPIF).
The NZPIF acknowledges the background information presented above and agrees with the proposed new regulations.
As always, the NZPIF seeks to achieve cost savings for the members of Property Investors’ Associations which are affiliated to the Federation. A reduced price on $45 fire alarms has been negotiated. Members can obtain for $25. This offer is only available to Property Investors’ Association members. If you are already a member of an Association, go here, fillin the user login at the top right of the homepage and begin the purchase process for smoke alarms for your rentals
There are 20 Property Investors’ Associations, affiliated to the NZPIF, around New Zealand. To obtain information on how to become a member of the Association near you, and then to be able purchase these well priced alarms, go here