In Queensland, the standard contract of sale in Queensland contains a smoke alarm section that the Seller is required to complete prior to the buyer signing the contract, stating whether the property is fitted with smoke alarms.
Contract conditions – Electrical safety switches and smoke alarm requirements
One of the last sections to complete on a contract is whether electrical safety switches and compliant smoke alarms have been installed in the property. Because it is one of the last sections in the contract, it can be tempting to tick the compliant box in haste.
However, this is not a section of the contract that can be quickly glossed over as the failure to complete the section correctly can cost both parties up to thousands of dollars to fix a hastily error of judgement.
Why is it important to complete this section correctly?
Besides the obvious benefits of saving lives, it is the law to have an electrical safety switch and compliant smoke alarms installed in the property.
The seller not only notifies the buyer whether compliant safety switches and smoke alarms have been installed, but this is also notified to the relevant city council on the Transfer documents. The transfer form that is to be completed by the seller requires the seller to advise whether compliant safety switches and smoke alarms have been installed. It must also outline whether the buyer has been notified on their compliance/non-compliance. This allows the council to quickly confirm whether properties are compliant with current laws, which is more relevant now as new smoke alarm legislation came into effect on 1 January 2022. Please see item 2 of our previous article we drafted regarding this.
The problem with non-compliant safety switches and smoke alarms
There are short and long term financial penalties for failing to have compliant smoke alarms in your property before selling. While a buyer cannot terminate a contract because the property does not have a safety switch or compliant smoke alarms, the following financial implications apply:
- the Real Estate Institute of Queensland (REIQ) contract allows a settlement adjustment in the buyer’s favour of 0.15% of the purchase price if the seller does not install compliant smoke alarms by the settlement date; and
- the council can fine both the buyer and the seller up to $1,500 for not having compliant smoke alarms.
If a safety switch has not been installed while the seller owned the property, then the buyer must install one within 3 months of settlement. Failing to install a safety switch within that time may result in a fine to the buyer.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can the domestic smoke alarm legislation be enforced?
Yes. The regulatory authority of the domestic smoke alarm legislation in Queensland is the Fire and Emergency Services (QFES), under the Fire and Emergency Services Act 1990 and the Building Fire Safety Regulation 2008.
However, the domestic smoke alarm legislation was introduced to provide early occupant warning to all occupants of a dwelling in the event of a fire. This early warning combined with a practised fire escape plan ensures all occupants can safely exit.
Does this affect me if I am building my house or unit now?
Dwellings constructed pre 1997 may have battery operated smoke alarms.
Dwellings constructed after 2014 are required to have their smoke alarms interconnected to each other.
The failure to have a safety switch in the property puts the responsibility solely on the buyer to ensure one is installed or else risk a fine. With the new smoke alarms legislation becoming relevant for most of the public at the start of 2022, there are greater responsibilities on the seller to ensure new smoke alarms are installed in the properties.
If not then the seller is at risk of being fined retroactively for not having compliant smoke alarms and may have some of the settlement monies withheld to pay for the cost of installing smoke alarms.
If you have any questions or require assistance with a conveyancing matter in Queensland, please contact the property team at My Property Protect for more information.
Kayleigh Swift, Associate
Chloe Skubis, Graduate Law Clerk
About the authors
Kayleigh Swift is an associate in our Commercial and Property team who assists with Employment Law matters. With a high level of experience in commercial and retail leasing, voluntary and involuntary purchase and sale acquisitions, property development and employee relations, Kayleigh provides practical advice to ensure smooth business transactions.
Chloe Skubis is a Graduate Law Clerk in our Property team who assists with various conveyancing transactions. Chloe is very experienced in residential conveyancing and is a problem solver. She always provides efficient service to all her clients.