Smoke alarms and fire safety

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All Victorian homes must have smoke alarms. Rental providers (landlords) must make sure that smoke alarms are properly installed and working. Renters should make sure that they continue to operate and tell their rental provider if they stop working.

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Rental providers must fit smoke alarms

Smoke alarms must be installed in all Victorian houses, units, flats and townhouses. Rental providers must fit smoke alarms in rented properties.

All buildings built after 1 August 1997 must have hard-wired smoke alarms with a battery back-up. Buildings built before that date can have a battery-powered smoke alarm.

Smoke alarms in rooming houses

Rooming houses must have hard-wired smoke alarms. Read more about how rooming house operators must meet their gas and electrical safety obligations.

A rooming house is a building where one or more rooms are available to rent, and four or more people in total can occupy those rooms.

Broken smoke alarms are urgent repairs 

A rental provider or rooming house operator must immediately arrange for a smoke alarm to be repaired or replaced as an urgent repair if they are notified that it is not in working order. This should be done by a suitably qualified person. This doesn’t always mean someone with qualifications.

For example, you do not need special training to change a battery on a smoke alarm. A hard-wired smoke alarm must be installed by a qualified electrician.

If a rental provider or rooming house operator cannot be contacted or does not immediately fix the smoke alarm, the renter or resident can authorise and pay for an urgent repair of up to $2,500. The rental provider must pay them back within seven days.

Renters and smoke alarms

Renters and rooming house residents:

  • must not deactivate or remove a smoke alarm or interfere with its operation in any way. If a renter, resident or their visitor does this, it is a breach of duty and a rental provider or rooming house operator may give the renter or resident a notice to vacate
  • must notify the rental provider or rooming house operator if a smoke alarm is faulty or not working
  • should leave batteries in the smoke alarm when moving out.

Smoke alarm requirements after 29 March 2021

These requirements for smoke alarm safety apply to:

  • rental agreements entered into after 29 March 2021
  • fixed term agreements of more than five years that become periodic tenancies after 29 March 2021.

Renter and rental provider responsibilities for smoke alarm safety will be included in new rental agreements.

The rental provider must ensure smoke alarms:

  • are correctly installed and in working order
  • are tested according to the manufacturer’s instructions at least once every 12 months
  • have their batteries replaced as required
  • are repaired or replaced as an urgent repair.

Renters must:

  • notify the rental provider in writing as soon a possible after becoming aware that a smoke alarm is not in working order.

On or before the start of a rental agreement, a rental provider must give a renter written information on how:

  • each smoke alarm works and how to test them
  • the renter must:
    • not tamper with any smoke alarm
    • report a smoke alarm that is not working.

Water tanks in bushfire prone areas

Requirements for water tanks apply to:

  • rental agreements entered into after 29 March 2021
  • fixed term agreements of more than five years that become periodic tenancies after 29 March 2021.

Rental properties in bushfire prone areas must have a water tank for bushfire safety.

If a water tank is required for firefighting, the rental provider must ensure the tank:

  • and any connected infrastructure is maintained in good repair
  • is clean and full at the start of the tenancy.

Resources for fire safety at home

For information about fire safety at home, visit Fire Rescue Victoria and read about:

You can also read Energy Safe Victoria’s advice on electrical safety in the home.

Renting law reforms

Victoria made significant changes to renting laws in 2021.

Some of the major changes to laws about smoke alarms include:

  • repairs to safety-related devices including smoke alarms are now defined as urgent repairs
  • a standard rental agreement may include a term setting out safety-related activities such as smoke alarm testing
  • a renter must not remove, deactivate or interfere with a safety device such as a smoke alarm.

Some language also changed:

  • landlords are now called rental providers
  • tenants are now called renters
  • leases are now called rental agreements.

You can read about these and other changes in a summary of the reforms or in detailed fact sheets and guides.

Sections of the Act

If you want to know what the law says about smoke alarms and fire safety, you can read these sections of the Residential Tenancies Act 1997:

  • Section 3 – Definition of an urgent repair
  • Section 72 – Urgent repairs.