Landlords: don’t overlook smoke alarms

Wednesday 17 January 2018

Failure to install smoke alarms in his “ramshackle” rental property has left an Auckland landlord with a $2000 fine – and MBIE warning landlords not to overlook their obligations.

By Miriam Bell

The Tenancy Tribunal has come down hard on a landlord, Arie Peter Sterk, whose rental accommodation had no smoke alarms – even though it was makeshift, derelict, neglected and a fire risk.

In 2016, Sterk was renting out three buses, a caravan, a bungalow and a garage/shed type structure on a West Auckland property.

A retired pensioner rented the garage/shed type structure, but Auckland Council found it to be non-compliant and the pensioner moved out in late 2016.

Shortly afterwards the MBIE Tenancy Compliance and Investigations Team became involved and, as it felt it was in the public interest to do so, initiated proceedings in the Tribunal as if it was the tenant.

The tenancy compliance team argued that Sterk had failed to comply with all requirements in respect of smoke alarms under the Residential Tenancies Act and related regulations.

The Tribunal has now ordered Sterk pay $2000 in exemplary damages for failing to have smoke alarms installed in accordance with the RTA.

It has also restrained Sterk from committing the same unlawful act for six years or he will face further legal action.

MBIE’s tenancy compliance team manager, Steve Watson, says the outcome serves as a strong reminder to all landlords that failing to comply with tenancy laws will not be tolerated.

“By failing to meet his legal obligations, Mr Sterk deprived his tenant of a warm, dry, and safe home, and put them at risk if there had been a fire.”

It is important landlords realise that not installing smoke alarms correctly isn’t only a legal compliance issue, but something that can have a very real effect on tenants, he says.

“When a landlord rents a property, they must have at least one working smoke alarm on each level, either in each bedroom, or within three metres of the bedroom door.”

Watson adds that landlords are running a business: their rental property is their product and it must tick all the boxes when it is being offered to rent to the public.

“The best thing a landlord can do is download the Compliance Checklist from the Tenancy Services website to ensure they are fully compliant with their obligations.”

MBIE’s tenancy compliance team was given much greater powers to investigate and prosecute in the July 2016 amendments to the RTA.

But it focuses on significant or ongoing breaches of the RTA which pose a significant risk to vulnerable tenants.

Read more:

Landlords on notice 

Tenancy Services takes on enforcer role 

Comments from our readers

On 18 January 2018 at 10:38 pm michaeljakob said:
It is a no brainer to have smoke alarms but what irks landlords is that it is now apparently MANDATORY that an external person is paid to come in, press the button and sign off that the alarm works. For a hefty fee of course. Why has this NEXT attack on landlords ben allowed to pass?

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