Hamilton tenant fined for tampering with smoke alarm

A Hamilton tenant has been stung $1850 for tampering with a smoke alarm just weeks after a new rule was passed putting more of the responsibility on them.

Jade Davies is one of the first tenants to be targeted by the new law which came into effect on July 1 and requires landlords to install smoke alarms and tenants to ensure they are in working order which includes replacing batteries.

The Tenancy Tribunal ordered Davies to pay $3864.07 for unpaid rent, cleaning, damage and repairs at the Glenview property she was living in. Of that $1850 was earmarked for exemplary damages for tampering with smoke alarms.

In the order, Tenancy Tribunal adjudicator M Ward said the tenant had regularly removed batteries from the smoke alarm at the property and rendered the alarm inoperative.

The tenants continued to tamper with the smoke alarm despite receiving several warnings from the landlord not to.

The smoke alarm was missing when the tenant moved out and the holes where it was covered up which M Ward presumed was to “disguise the fact”.

“Based on the evidence provided I can only conclude the breach was deliberate, intentional, continuous and showed a total disregard of the tenant’s obligations.”

Davies did not turn up to the hearing.

Glasshouse Property Management property manager Jeremy Baker, whose firm brought the case to the tribunal, said the tenant had repeatedly taken the smoke alarm down.

“We don’t have a lot of issues with people not testing them, that’s not really our biggest challenge, it’s people blatantly pulling them down.”

Mr Baker said while it was still early days, the new rules gave clarity around who was responsible for installing and maintaining smoke alarms.

“What’s never been very clear is who is actually responsible for the batteries and things like that, is it the landlord or the tenant. And I think to have it clarified and clear that we have to provide it at the start and the tenant is responsible for them to operate ongoing and let us know if there’s anything wrong with them so we can replace them.”

He said it was not uncommon for them to go into a property and see a smoke alarm had been removed, but this was often easily rectified after speaking with the tenant.

The newer alarms had a sealed battery which prevented people removing the 9V batteries from older style smoke alarms and using them for toys or other household devices, he said.

Under the Building Act 2004 the maximum fine for rendering inoperative any means of escape from fire is $3000.

Fire Service Waikato area commander Roy Breeze said one of the biggest mistakes people made with smoke alarms was removing the batteries because they started beeping because they are going flat and then they end up forgetting to replace them.

He said people should check smoke alarms at least once a year or on daylight savings. The newer smoke alarms had fixed batteries and lasted 10 years.

“Unless a person is impaired by alcohol we rarely have a death where smoke alarms are in the house.

NZ Herald

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