A faulty fire alarm raised the fire service, who pays for this?

Mel asks:
(updated on Wednesday, October 01st 2008)

One of our tenants recently called a fire service company due to a beeping hard wired fire alarm in the unit. As it was 11:00pm at night they were unable to contact us, and after expecting the fire service to arrive, which they didn't, they called the fire service,and were then referred to a private fire service company to assist. It turns out it was just a battery that needed replacing, but being hard wired they could not do it themselves. We are now facing a large invoice for the fire service call out. We did not authorise this call out,so are wondering, legally,who should pay? The Body corp won't pay as the fire alarms were tested less then 3 weeks ago, and were "fine".

Our Experts Answer:

As a landlord, you are responsible for maintaining the property. This can include repairing a malfunctioning fire alarm, as long as the tenant did not carelessly or intentionally cause the need for repair. Tenants are usually obliged to tell the landlord about any necessary maintenance so that the landlord can arrange for repairs to be done. However, if the tenant has had to arrange repairs because the need for maintenance is serious and urgent and the tenant has been unable to contact the landlord, the landlord may be required to compensate the tenant for the cost of the repair. Whether you will have to pay for the cost of the Fire Service call-out may depend on whether the need for repair (in this case, replacing the battery) was serious and urgent. If you and your tenant are unable to agree about who will pay the cost of the Fire Service call-out, you can apply to the Tenancy Tribunal to resolve the matter. To discuss your situation further, or for advice and information about applying to the Tenancy Tribunal, you can contact the Department of Building and Housing on 0800 TENANCY (0800 836 262).

The Department of Building and Housing provides information and guidance on building law and compliance, services including weathertight homes, and advice for tenants and landlords.

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