Property Managers Fined for Smoke Detector Failure During Fire

July 2024

Reading Time: 2 Minutes  

A Dunedin property management company has been fined more than $6000 following a house fire where smoke alarms failed to activate. 

Cutlers Limited, trading as Cutlers Property Management, was ordered by the Tenancy Tribunal to pay $6450 in exemplary damages to the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) for tenants affected by a fire in September 2022.

Tenancy Tribunal Case Breakdown 

In this case, the Tenancy Tribunal determined that Cutlers had deliberately failed to meet obligations under the Residential Tenancies Act regarding smoke alarm maintenance and installation requirements. 

During the fire, smoke alarms in both the upstairs and downstairs flats of the property did not activate. The fire was only noticed when a downstairs tenant smelled something burning. 

At the hearing, a Fire and Emergency New Zealand station officer emphasised the critical role of smoke alarms, stating that if the fire had occurred later, the tenants might have been asleep and unaware, potentially leading to catastrophic consequences. 

Evidence presented by MBIE's Tenancy Compliance and Investigations Team showed that Cutlers had provided non-compliant smoke alarms for the downstairs flat, leaving them for tenants to install. Although installed by a tenant's family member, these alarms were not tested. Additionally, an inspection revealed that a smoke alarm in the upstairs flat, which failed during the fire, was expired and non-functional. 

Crockers’ Commitment to Best Practice Protocols 

Crockers Property Management says the case demonstrates the important nature of ensuring smoke alarm compliance. Crockers recommends to all clients that a professional smoke alarm company is contracted to ensure all managed properties meet the smoke alarm compliance requirements.  

With the tenant's safety in mind, Crockers also recommends that alarms are checked on an annual basis, despite the legislation only requiring the smoke alarms to be checked before the tenants move in and when the tenant reports a fault with the smoke alarm.  

Crockers' Business Development Manager Shanon Aitken advises: "Crockers' protocols help ensure safety and we would encourage other private landlords and property managers to follow best standards and treat the smoke alarms maintenance and monitoring as a priority, especially as we head into winter with a cold snap and people using heating devices."  

Find out more about smoke alarm requirements: Interconnected Smoke Alarms Mandatory for New Builds and Renovations and What are the Rules for Smoke Alarms in Rental Properties?  

Contact Crockers 

For peace of mind and further advice on any of your property management needs, contact the helpful Crockers Property Management team on pm@crockers.co.nz or call for a chat on 09 623 5952.

 

 

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