Smoke alarms

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

A residential building includes 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).

The Building Regulations 2018 (the Regulations) state that smoke alarms must meet the Australian Standard AS 3786-1993. Complying models can be found at most electrical appliance outlets or hardware stores.

Smoke alarms must be connected (hard wired) to the building's consumer mains power source as well as having a battery back-up, unless the building was built before 1 August 1997.

Qualified electricians must install smoke alarms that are 'hard wired' to the consumer mains power source, but battery operated smoke alarms can be installed by anyone

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

It is recommended that you:

  • check your smoke alarm is working by pressing the button on its outside
  • replace your smoke alarm battery on an annual basis (if the battery is lithium ion, every ten years)
  • 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 Regulations.