Forums / Property Investing / General Property / Smoke alarm maintenance

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  • Profile photo of jjlylejjlyle
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    @jjlyle
    Join Date: 2006
    Post Count: 6

    Hi everyone

    Has anyone experienced property managers suggesting using a professional organisation to look after the maintenance of smoke alarms?  I have 5 IPs with 3 different PMs.  Two of the PMs say that I should use their preferred business at a cost of $99 p.a. per property. The business inspects the smoke alarms, check batteries, cleans smoke alarms, sends tenants reminders to check smoke alarms, and keeps records of all transactions.  The maintenance of smoke alarms seems simple for the landlord but PMs suggest that if I don't have them checked professionally, my insurance may not be valid in the event of a fire.  The third PM has not contacted me at all in this regard so is leaving it up to me to maintain.
    I am looking at $500 per year if I use these organisations, but maybe it is worth it to not have the liability.  Any feedback would be welcome.

    Thanks

    Profile photo of Scott No MatesScott No Mates
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    @scott-no-mates
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    Generally, there is no maintenance required on a hard wired smoke detector other than the annual replacement of the 9 volt battery. Unit is tested (manually) on each change to daylight saving. Unless there is something special about the installation ie very high ceilings, any handyman can do this. I am not aware of any specific maintenance requirements for these systems.

    The fee is probably quite reasonable but you must remember that you will pay a tradesman a callout fee to do the inspection anyway. No discount as each is in a different location.

    Profile photo of jjlylejjlyle
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    @jjlyle
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    Post Count: 6

    Is anyone else using professionals to do the maintenance or do you do it yourselves?  I kind of feel that the PMs are using scare tactics to encourage me to use someone else. 

    Profile photo of v8ghiav8ghia
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    @v8ghia
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    Hi Jjlye

    I must confess I too think it is exhorbatant. One agent has suggested I use their tradesperson and pay $75 twice yearly for a detector inspection. Unfortunately, this appears to be because it is for a qualified electircian callout – apparently a 'handy man' must not be able to do this. Just lloking into it on one now myself. Have an inspection due in a couple of weeks, so I will do the first one myself – but as you mention, it adds up, especially on a few properties.
    I guess with 'legislation' there are not a lot of options – ie see below.

    The Building Code of Australia (BCA) and the Building Regulations 2006 recommendations are that a specialist and professional third party servicing and maintenance contractor should be used for testing and reporting of smoke detectors. The competent person needs to have such expertise and support as may be required so that the smoke alarms can be maintained in full working order, and if found to be defective, be quickly and competently returned to good order.

    I'd be interested in anyone elses thoughts – especially options in a house that only has a couple of battery operated detectors.

    Cheers

    Profile photo of 1Winner1Winner
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    @1winner
    Join Date: 2004
    Post Count: 478

    At $99 you could replace them every year/ It is an organised rip off.
    Talk to your electrician and tell him how much would he charge to replace batteries and test on all of the properties. I doubt very much he will charge you $500 if properties are within a reasonable distance.

    Profile photo of Chris_SChris_S
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    @chris_s
    Join Date: 2009
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    What does your insurance Policy say??

    Maybe get in contact with Wormald? (www.wormald.com.au) They are in the fire protection business and offer maintenance services. Maybe get in contact with them or similar companies to see if they’re cheaper??

    Profile photo of WJ HookerWJ Hooker
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    @wj-hooker
    Join Date: 2007
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    I have posted a comment previously regards this.

    The legislation just says you need to have them and check them within first month of tenant taking up rental property. After that it is the tenants responsibility to replace battery and clean, don't believe all the crap you hear – google fire alarms and read it for yourself.

    I do a once a year trip and change the batteries myself, clean them and test – just need to hold the button – that is all the professionals do. Have you ever seen a course at tafe for fire alarm testing !!!.

    I have also fitted battery operated units next to hard wired units to cover all manner of faults , its very cheap to do and easy.

    You can claim your trip – your parts etc on your tax.

    Profile photo of ducksterduckster
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    My PM is using hire a hubby to come in and change the battery every 12 months.

    Profile photo of SHalesSHales
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    @shales
    Join Date: 2007
    Post Count: 325

    My PM is using a professional service for this.  Can't remember the price, but I remember admiring how enterprising these people were who had set up this business testing and maintaining smoke alarms.  I do remember thinking it was a little dear, but we are a long way from our IP and for the peace of mind, knowing it is done to the legislative requirements, insurance is satisfied, I was happy to pay.  I'm sure it wasn't $99 though, more like $50.  One day I'll think up a business idea like that, hire any old bloke to do the work (trade not required, just a little documented procedure on what to do), hire them out at more than $100 per hour, line up a whole heap of work through a few PM's – bloody brilliant.  Good on them.

    Profile photo of perpetratorperpetrator
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    @perpetrator
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    WJ Hooker wrote:
    Have you ever seen a course at tafe for fire alarm testing !!!.

    Um, yes I have.

    Licence Classes

    (1) Certify.

    (2) Install and maintain – extra low voltage

    (3) Maintain – extra low voltage

    Scope of work

    (1) For the licence class mentioned in section 1. above — certify, inspect and test fire detection, alarm and warning systems, including inputs to, and outputs and controls from, fire alarm systems, fire ventilation controls, and suppression system monitoring and controls.

    (2) For a licence class mentioned in section 2. above — install and maintain fire detection, alarm and warning systems, including inputs to, and outputs and controls from, fire alarm systems, fire ventilation controls, and suppression system monitoring and controls but limited to systems and controls with extra low voltage.

    (3) For a licence class mentioned in section 3. above — maintain fire detection, alarm and warning systems, including inputs to, and outputs and controls from fire, alarm systems, fire ventilation controls, and suppression system monitoring and controls but limited to systems and controls with extra low voltage.

    Technical qualifications

    (a) For the licence class mentioned in section 1. above any one of the following—

    (i) the successful completion of Certificate IV in Fire Systems Compliance (Fire Detection Systems) 30536QLD;

    (ii) successful completion of a course the authority considers is at least equivalent to the course mentioned in paragraph (a)(i);

    (iii) accreditation from the Fire Protection Industry Board, that the applicant has successfully completed all of the following— category IAD—certification of installation of fire detection and alarm systems; category IAE—certification of installation of emergency warning and intercommunications systems; category MAE—certification of maintenance of fire detection and alarm systems; category MAF—certification of maintenance of emergency warning and intercommunications systems.

    (b) For the licence class mentioned in section 2. above any one of the following —

    (i) the successful completion of either—

    Certificate III in Electrotechnology Building Services UTE30299, including the specialisation in fire systems; or Certificate III in Fire Protection Control UEE31006;

    (ii) successful completion of a course the authority considers is at least equivalent to either of the courses mentioned in paragraph (b)(i);

    (iii) possession of an electrical mechanic licence;

    (iv) accreditation from the Fire Protection Industry Board, that the applicant has successfully completed all of the following— category IAD—certification of installation of fire detection and alarm systems; category IAE—certification of installation of emergency warning and intercommunications systems; category MAE—certification of maintenance of fire detection and alarm systems; category MAF—certification of maintenance of emergency warning and intercommunications systems.

    (c) For the licence class mentioned in section 3. above any one of the following —

    (i) the successful completion of Certificate II in Asset Maintenance (Fire Protection Equipment) PRM20404;

    (ii) the successful completion of Certificate II in Fire Alarm Servicing UEE21005; or

    (iii) successful completion of a course the authority considers is at least equivalent to the courses mentioned in paragraph (c)(i) or (c)(ii);

    (iv) accreditation from the Fire Protection Industry Board, that the applicant has successfully completed both of the following—

    category MAE—certification of maintenance of fire detection and alarm systems; category MAF—certification of maintenance of emergency warning and intercommunications systems;

    (v) possession of an electrical mechanic licence.

    DEFINITIONS

    Certify means

    (a) to give advice or a report, including a certificate, stating that a fire protection system

    complies with Australian and international standards, Building Code of Australia

    requirements and manufacturer’s specifications after conducting a survey of the system; and

    (b) to give a QBSA licensee certificate under the Building Regulation 2006 for the work.

    Electrical mechanic licence means

    (a) an electrical mechanic licence issued under the Electrical Safety Regulation 2002; or

    (b) an electrical contractor licence issued under the Electrical Safety Regulation 2002, if the person the

    licence was issued to, previously held an electrical mechanic licence.

    Inspect and test means

    (a) to inspect by visual examination the components of fire protection systems or equipment to

    establish correct settings, physical condition or fitness for purpose under 1-5-5, AS 1851-2005;

    and

    (b) to test, after inspecting, by the confirmation of correct function or performance of a component

    or system under 1-5-13, AS 1851-2005.

    Install means

    (a) place a fire protection system in position ready for use; or

    (b) restore a fire protection system to its original operating specifications; or

    (c) alter a fire protection system; or

    (d) provide an installer’s statement in relation to the work

    Example: Where the fire system is altered from its original design specifications by way

    of replacing with components of different specifications, it is installation.

    Installer’s statement means

    A statement about the installation of a fire protection system.

    Maintain means

    (a) inspect and test a fire protection system and any other fire safety measures to ensure continued operation at their original performance levels and in accordance with any relevant Australian Standards; or

    (b) repair or replace defective components to keep a fire protection system in a working order

    according to original specifications

    (c) carry out preventative maintenance; or

    (d) prepare a maintenance record of the work mentioned in paragraphs (a) to (c).

    Maintenance record means

    a record of any maintenance carried out.

    Preventative maintenance means

    lubrication, cleaning, adjustment and replacement of parts for the purpose of minimising

    faults or malfunctions of a fire protection system.

    Example: where a fire system is not altered from its original design specifications it is

    maintenance and repair (‘like for like’ replacement of components).

    Survey means

    the visual inspection of a fire protection system to identify if the system has been altered,

    damaged or compromised.

    Example: where a fire system is not altered from its original design specifications it is maintenance and repaired.

    Profile photo of Scott No MatesScott No Mates
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    @scott-no-mates
    Join Date: 2005
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    Sorry to bust the bubble but this does not relate to ionisation type smoke alarms (typical hardwired home devices) .

    This is the Australian standard for commercial, multi residential, retail etc type buildings and is for the servicing and provision of the annual fire statement (previously form 15a in NSW).

    The standard covers the servicing & certification of fire hose reels, hydrants, exit and emergency lighting, sprinkler systems, fire doors etc.

    Profile photo of shanemattshanematt
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    @shanematt
    Join Date: 2008
    Post Count: 70
    perpetrator wrote:
    WJ Hooker wrote:
    Have you ever seen a course at tafe for fire alarm testing !!!.

    Um, yes I have.

    This is definately not nessasary according to legislation and thats all that matters.As a previous poster said-it can be done 1 month prior ect ect by the landlord. I let a pro company do my hard wired alarms but there’s no way I’m paying someone $99- to change a battery and press a button on all my other properties.

    Good business idea though for those landlords who fall for it or can’t be bothered

    Profile photo of Scott No MatesScott No Mates
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    @scott-no-mates
    Join Date: 2005
    Post Count: 3,847

    Shanematt, what are your comments regarding perpetrator's notes? AS1851 does not apply to properties where fire protection systems are not installed (ie smoke detectors are not fire protection systems hence do not require the maintenance or application of the standard).

    Profile photo of jjlylejjlyle
    Member
    @jjlyle
    Join Date: 2006
    Post Count: 6

    Thanks everyone for your comments and advice.  I have decided to do the maintenance myself and save the $500p.a.  I think I was taking the PMs suggestions too seriously.  I will keep a log book of when I do the inspections, change batteries and clean smoke alarms.   I think this forum is a great way to collect information from others and make a more informed decision.

    Thanks again

    Profile photo of SHalesSHales
    Member
    @shales
    Join Date: 2007
    Post Count: 325

    The suggestion that landlords who take up this service are either stupid or lazy is offensive.  In my case, I am one and a half days drive from one of my IP's.  Why would I sacrifice time away from our own business, where we can be earning $200 an hour to go and deal with a smoke alarm?  I am happy to pay for the service, and know it is done.  It is not because I am stupid, and have fallen for some kind of trick.  It is not because I am lazy.  It is because I am busy earning money and raising my kids, and I am only too happy to pay someone else to handle something as simple, and minor as this.  It simply doesn't warrant my own time and attention.  Compared to the value I put on my own time, and the amount of my own time this service is saving, it would be worthwhile value for money at twice the price they are charging me. 

    This is a little economic principle that some of you might like to learn about.  The principle of economic advantage.  The smoke alarm maintainers can handle this for me at a price less than it would cost me to handle it for myself.  I'm better off doing what I do and paying them to do what they do.  Being offended about the price they are charging is a little like being offended at the price the mechanic might charge you to service your car, or the price a window cleaner might charge to clean the windows in an office block, or the price a tree lopper might charge to cut down a tree and cart it away. Sure you might be able to do these things yourself, but is it worth it, personally, to you?  Don't suggest that because someone is willing to pay for a service they are either lazy or stupid.

    Perhaps I am also stupid and lazy because I pay a lady $20 an hour cash to come and do my housework once a week for me.  Frees up my time for my kids and my business, and is worth every cent.  Any of you pay for ironing?  Pay to have your car washed?

    Profile photo of Scott No MatesScott No Mates
    Participant
    @scott-no-mates
    Join Date: 2005
    Post Count: 3,847

    As pointed out previously, there is no obligation to maintain the systems once installed, only the installation of a new backup battery upon commencement of a new tenancy. If need be, a sparky can do the changeover during the vacancy.

    Logic does have to prevail, I donot go to my interstate sites unless I have to and changing a battery is not a valid cause to spend 3 days on the road (not very cost or time efficient as you point out).

    (Do cars need washing)?

    Profile photo of MattDelfMattDelf
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    @mattdelf
    Join Date: 2009
    Post Count: 2

    I see this discussion started way back. But now in July 2009 I have just recieved a letter from my PM asking that I take on a $99 a year maintenance,/service per property for smoke alarms (I have four properties close together in Sydney). I have several issues with the request.

    Firstly they have given me no alternatives, no other quotes, no comparisons. For a $400 per annum price I think a few comparisons would be appropriate (Makes me think the old kick-back is going on – ie service provider to PM).

    Secondely, legislative requiremnts and the price itself. In one of my properties the tennant has not changed or signed a new lease for 17 years! When the legislation came in 2006 in NSW the smoke alarms were checked. Under lego, I or PM have no futher requiremnt to maintain or check until tennant changes (or new lease signed). So why would I pay $99 a year for something that is not even required. It is the tennants responsibilty from that point forward. Just as it is in my own home. I have an alarm that beeps at me when battery is flat. I change the battery. $99 for that? And only once a year at the most! Even when the tennant changes all the PM has to do is put a new battery in and then press the test button to see if it works! $99??? Why not just contract some one to do this on the one off basis when tennant changes (say $30 to $40) In my case this would be once every 2 to 3 years for three of the properties. A company in Queensland offers a once off annual service of $39. They do not operate in NSW.

    Lastly, they have given me an "opt Out Option". So if do not sign a letter declining the service that will just go ahead and start charging me. I am sure this must be illegal!! (Any one know?) The wording of the opt out letter is as follows "I do not wish the smoke alarms in my property/ies (listed below) to be serviced, and I undertake responsibility for ensuring my compliance with smoke alarm legislation". Now this really seems wrong. For a start the legislation says nothing about smoke alarms being "serviced". It is just about them being installed correctly and not interfering with them. And yes I do want them installed correctly with a new battery when a new lease is signed and want this done by my PM at a reasonable price.

    No way do I think I should sign this. What do you think?

    Profile photo of WJ HookerWJ Hooker
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    @wj-hooker
    Join Date: 2007
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    Mattdelf,

                  Yes, I get these stupid letters from the real estate agent also. They are just trying do two things.

    1. Make money by getting kickbacks.

    2. Remove all possible chances of them being somehow responsible for any claim against them ( you know protecting their own bum ).

    Just email them or fax it back and tell them to stick it.

    Also I get these letters from another real estate agent advising I will be charged $20 for an end of year statement for my properties. I ring them up and give them hell, I notice they don't send it any more. But cannot see how they can just take money and supply something if you don't ask for it. Tell them you will advise the fair trading authority, if they send you another one.

    Shales,

                Don't worry , be happy.

    Its obvious we don't expect you to get in your car and drive interstate to change a battery. The point of it is that as landlords we get more and more expenses just dumped on us and are expected to pay for them, next we will need to clean the gutters, hang on I just recently got a letter from you guessed it the real estate agent advising of some company that will clean all my gutters for $150 dollars or something…

    If you live close to your rentals change the battery once new tenancy agreements start, the tenant can then worry about it.

    The only thing to watch out for is that the smoke detector is within working life, what ever that means, lets see you find that on the instructions that come with it.

    bye

    Profile photo of bundyanimalbundyanimal
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    @bundyanimal
    Join Date: 2007
    Post Count: 15

    I guess it depends on what your managers do.

    Mine are content in doing checks on the alarms every quarterly inspection. (Fortunately, they haven't sent me any servicing contractors fees yet?

    I like scotts post, informing that the oneus relies on tenant, once batteries are replaced. (and actually makes practical sense)

    In order to check the serviceabilty of the alarm, you can buy an aerosole can that is a smoke tester. (Comes in a can like fly spray) Just hold it up to the detector, and spray it just under the receptor. If nothing happens, may need to get new alarm.

    I will just send the PM's a can of spray for the tests.

    It is all good and well to hit the test button to check that there is an audible noise, but you need to make sure that on detection of smoke that the alarm will be triggered.

    Cheers

    Profile photo of WJ HookerWJ Hooker
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    @wj-hooker
    Join Date: 2007
    Post Count: 272

    bundyanimal,

                            Thanks for info. will look out for this can in the shops? any particular shop ?

    In the old days we had to test smoke alarms at work. We had a can on a stick, we put diesel fuel on rag and lit it, then dropped it into the can, it would smoke really well and we walked around testing the alarms. good old days. Not recommended to try inside your house.

    Unsure if pushing the button actually just tests the audio or goes deeper , like an Electrical Current Trip device that actually simulates leakage current when you push the test button and gives 50mA of leakage to earth or so.?

    If all else fails just burn some toast, that sets off carbon molecules and should set off alarm or blow smoke into alarm if you smoke.

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