Whether you:

  • are buying or selling a house,
  • already own a house that you live in,
  • are building or substantially renovating a house, or
  • own investment properties or have properties you are renting out,

you should make sure you are aware of the current and upcoming Smoke Alarm Laws.

Requirements When Replacing Smoke Alarms

For any homeowner or landlord with an existing dwelling, if you are replacing any smoke alarms, you must replace them with a “photoelectric” type which meets current Australian standards (“AS 3786-2014”). These optical alarms detect visible traces of combustion.

You can check the packaging for either the “Standards Australia certification”, “ActivFire registration” or “Scientific Services Laboratory” markings. 

New Homes or Substantially Renovated Homes

If you are building a new home or substantially renovating an old home, the smoke alarms that are installed need to be:

  • photoelectric (AS 3786-2014);
  • not contain an ionization sensor;
  • hardwired to the mains power with a secondary power source (ie. battery);
  • interconnected with other smoke alarms in the dwelling so they all activate together; and
  • installed on each storey:
    • in each bedroom;
    • in hallways that connect bedrooms with the rest of the dwelling;
    • if there is no hallway, between the bedroom and other parts of that story; and
    • if there are no bedrooms on a story, in the most likely path to travel to exit the building.

Further requirements will be introduced from 1 January, 2022 which will apply to people about to rent or sell their property, and for all homeowners from 1 January, 2027 as set out below.

Be extra careful if your smoke alarms are old

If your smoke alarms were manufactured more than 10 years ago, you will need to replace these with a photoelectric alarm - even if they are in working order when tested.

“Hardwired” smoke alarms should be replaced with either another hardwired unit or an alarm that is powered by a non-removable 10-year battery.

Of course, you will also need to replace alarms of any age that do not pass the required testing. You are required by law to test each fire alarm at least once a year, but Queensland Fire and Emergency Services recommends that, once a month, you should:

  • press the test button on each alarm;
  • listen for the ‘chirping sound’ indicator for a flat battery; and
  • clean the grill on the alarm according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

Futureproofing Existing Houses

If you are replacing smoke alarms, you should consider the new requirements coming through in 2022 and 2027.

On top of requiring photoelectric alarms, the new law contains other requirements, including that all smoke alarms must: 

  • not contain an “ionization sensor” – this should not be an issue for any smoke alarm which meets current Australian standards as a photoelectric type alarm; and
  • be interconnected with all other smoke alarms in a dwelling, so that they all activate together.

Additionally, you will need to check that you have a fire alarm installed: 

  • in each bedroom;
  • in hallways that connect bedrooms with the rest of the dwelling;
  • if there is no hallway, between the bedroom and other parts of that story; and
  • if there are no bedrooms on a story, in the most likely path to travel to exit the building.

As of 2022 for people about to rent or sell their property and 2027 for all homeowners, if your smoke alarms are still not hardwired, you will be required to make sure that they are instead powered by a non-removable 10-year battery.

What to look out for

Even though most of the new regulations will not take effect for another 2-7 years, it will make sense to make sure that, any smoke alarm you buy from now on is: 

  • photoelectric;
  • capable of interconnecting with other alarms; and
  • hardwired or compatible with a non-removable 10-year battery.

The content of this article is to provide a general guide on this topic.  Please contact our team for professional advice about your specific circumstances.

For further information please visit the Queensland Fire and Emergency Services website by clicking here.