NZ Tenant Fined After Tampering with Fire Alarm

In Hamilton the Tenancy Tribunal ruled in the property owner’s favour after a tenant was found tampering with a smoke alarm, creating a warning shot for tenants on their obligations in rental properties.

Under the recent Residential Tenancies Act amendment, landlords must install smoke alarms with photoelectric sensors and long-life batteries throughout the property, however once installed it’s the tenants responsibility to replace the batteries and inform the property owner of any defects.

Under the Building Act 2004, it’s an offence to interfere or render inoperable any means of escape from a fire, and tenants can be charged up to $3000 in exemplary damages if found in breach.

In this Tribunal case, the tenant had regularly removed batteries from a smoke alarm to smoke, despite repeated reminders not to and a 14-Day Notice being issued by the property manager, before removing the smoke alarm from the property when they moved out. Evidence showed the breach was deliberate, intentional, continuous, and showed total disregard for their obligations towards the rental property, resulting in a fine of $1850 for exemplary damages for tampering with a smoke alarm, plus the cost of rent arrears and various damage caused by the tenant.

To prevent fire damage on your Wellington rental property, we suggest you implement a no smoking policy, this is also vital to ensure a fresh, clean smelling property and help attract future prospective tenants. Install smoke alarms that are difficult to tamper with and remove the batteries, and remember to check the smoke alarms are running efficiently during each property inspection for peace of mind. 

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