Landlords: are your residential developments meeting Queensland’s smoke alarm legislation?
Landlords: are your residential developments meeting Queensland’s smoke alarm legislation?

By Clyde Pellew, Principal Electrical Engineer

Just before midnight on August 2011, a fire started on the ground floor of a house in Slacks Creek on Brisbane’s southside. It would go on to claim the lives of 11 people, the greatest loss of life in a domestic house fire in Australian history.

In the inquest that followed in 2014, the Coroner James McDougall found that the house had no working smoke alarms, and that is was likely that some of the deaths would have been prevented if the occupants had been quickly awoken. As a result of these findings, new Domestic Smoke Alarm legislation was enacted in Queensland to increase occupant safety in residential homes, providing early warning for safe evacuation.

From 1 January 2017, all new dwellings or those being renovated were required to have smoke alarms installed that complied with the National Construction Code (NCC). In addition:

  • From 1 January 2022:
    • all rented dwellings are required to have compliant smoke alarms upon new lease or resigning of current lease.
    • it is also a requirement to have compliant smoke alarms in all dwellings that are sold or transferred.
  • From 1 January 2027:
    • it will also be a requirement for all owner-occupied dwellings.

What exactly are the Landlords obligations?

The legislation is applicable to the following accommodation types as captured in the NCC:

  • Class 1A Dwellings (domestic houses, townhouses)
  • Class 2 Sole Occupancy Units (SOU)

If you are the landlord of one of these accommodation types, you are responsible for upgrading the dwelling (or unit) no later than the required date indicated above. Bodies Corporate or managing entities are not responsible for smoke alarm upgrades.

What do you need to do before the January 2022 deadline?

As the landlord of one of these accommodation types, the legislation requires you to install photoelectric (AS3786-2014) type smoke alarms that are hardwired, or for existing dwellings the smoke alarms can be powered by a non-removable 10-year battery.

In addition, you must ensure that each smoke alarm is interconnected with every other smoke alarm in the dwelling, so they all activate together.

Where should smoke alarms be located?

The legislation requires that smoke alarms must be installed in the following locations:

Queensland smoke alarms residential locations DMA Engineers


Smoke alarms should be installed on the ceiling (if it is practicable) and must not be:

  • within 300mm from the corner of wall and ceiling.
  • within 300mm from light fittings.
  • within 400 mm from fan blades and air conditioner vents.
  • in locations where smoke or steam regularly cause unwanted activation.

There are special requirements for stairways, sloping ceilings and ceilings with exposed beams.

If impractical for the prescribed location requirements to be met (e.g. may be affected by steam from shower or fumes from cooking), the owner may put the alarm at another location that will provide a warning to occupants of the dwelling.

Are there any exemptions?

A Class 2 exemption exists for high-rise apartments where the NCC requires a Fire Detection and Alarm System to specification E2.2a Clause 4 System. In the case of a Class 2 high-rise, the Fire Detection and Alarm System requires the following to be installed by January 2022:

  • at least one smoke detector in the hallway of each Single Occupancy Unit (SOU).
  • all smoke detectors connected to the Fire Indicator Panel (FIP) in building foyer/entry.
  • if any detector in the building activates, the sound alert for the entire building must activate – although the evacuation alert may initially cascade across levels.
  • a speaker shall be located in each bedroom.

What happens if you don’t comply?

With the adoption of the legislation in January 2017, the deadline of January 2022 will apply to all dwellings either rented, sold or transferred. With this looming deadline, now is the time for landlords to implement or plan the necessary upgrade works to ensure compliance.

Failure to comply can result in these consequences:

  • inability to legally rent the property. Rental agents will require confirmation of the upgrade and it you are unable to supply this confirmation you may lose any current tenants.
  • insurance considerations should damage to the property occur without the building being compliant.
  • penalties may apply:
    • currently up to $667 per offence.
    • a penalty can also be imposed for ‘Fail to Test’ and ‘Fail to Clean’. Within 30 days before the start of a tenancy in a domestic dwelling, the lessor/landlord must test and clean each smoke alarm in the dwelling. During a tenancy in a domestic dwelling, the tenant must test and clean each smoke alarm in the dwelling at least once every 12 months.

If you’d like any advice or help planning compliance to Queensland’s smoke alarm legislation for your building, get in touch with our Lead Electrical Engineer, Clyde Pellew at 


Additional resources:

Classification of Buildings and Structures fact sheet.

QFES ‘Upgrade your smoke alarms today’.



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