Smoke alarms

Smoke alarms are compulsory and must be installed in every residential building, on or near the ceiling of every storey. They must be located in a position designed to wake sleeping occupants.

Residential building include the following building classes as broadly defined in the National Construction Code (NCC):

  • Class 1a: detached houses, row houses, town houses, terrace houses or villa units
  • Class 1b: some boarding houses, guest houses or hostels
  • Class 2: buildings containing sole-occupancy units (e.g. apartments, blocks of flats)
  • Class 3: backpacker accommodation, residential parts of hotels or motels, residential parts of schools, accommodation for the aged, disabled or children
  • Class 4: dwellings in non-residential buildings (e.g. houses attached to shops).

Smoke alarms must meet the Australian Standard AS 3786 and complying models can be found at most electrical appliance or hardware stores.

Smoke alarms must be connected (hard wired) to the building's consumer mains power source and have a battery back-up. If the building was built before 1 August 1997 and has battery smoke alarms complying with AS 3786 - 1993 that are installed in the correct locations, hard wired smoke alarms are not required. Smoke alarms that are hard wired to the mains power source can only be installed by a qualified electrician. Battery-operated smoke alarms can be installed by anyone.

If you are renting a house or unit, it is the landlord's responsibility to ensure smoke alarms are installed and kept in working condition.

Regardless of whether you are renting or living in a home that you own, the VBA recommends that you:

  • check the smoke alarm is working by pressing the button on its outside
  • replace smoke alarm battery on an annual basis (if the battery is lithium ion, every ten years)
  • replacement of unit after 10 years (new units have expiry date located under battery)
  • replace the battery, if your smoke alarm emits a warning sound (a high-pitched single beep every 30 seconds)
  • clean your alarm regularly to remove dust particles
  • familiarise yourself with the manufacturer's maintenance guidelines.

A fine can be imposed on an owner who fails to comply with the smoke alarm requirements of the Building Regulations 2018.