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Smoke Alarms, Safety Switches and the Law

What is a safety switch and why do I need one?

Safety switches are your insurance against electric shock. They:

  • Are designed to prevent injury or death
  • Monitor the flow of electricity through a circuit
  • Automatically shut off the electricity supply when current is detected leaking from faulty switches, wiring or electrical appliances.  This stops the change of current flowing to earth, through a person and electrocuting them.

Installing a safety switch is an inexpensive safety measure that protects everyone!

How can I tell if I have a safety switch?

The switchboard is the best place to look for permanently installed safety switches.  Safety switches can be easily identified – they are the one with a 'test' button.

Buying, selling or building a new home? Here are your legal obligations.

When buying or selling a property you need to check whether there’s an electrical safety switch installed on the premises. The law now requires the installation of safety switches within three months of the sale of a domestic residence constructed prior to 1992.

If you are building a new home, you must have a safety switch installed on both power and lighting circuits.

Sellers' responsibilities

The seller must declare whether the home has a safety switch. This must be declared on the Sales contract (e.g. REIQ contract for houses and land) • Form 24 – Property Transfer Information. Real estate agents and solicitors should be aware of these requirements. Some sellers might prefer to have a safety switch installed before they place a home on the market.

Why? Because it could help smooth the way for a sale. This way, potential buyers will know they are protected from most types of electrical shock. Also, it will satisfy financiers who require confirmation that a safety switch is installed.

Buyers' responsibilities

If there’s no safety switch on the premises, it’s legally up to the buyer to have one installed within three months of the settlement date (legal possession). The law applies to any home transfer including estate, Family Law and mortgagee transfers. Maximum penalties exceed $1000.

Landlords' responsibilities

If a safety switch is not installed in your rental property after 1 March 2008 you may get fines of up to $1500.00. The regulations ensure people in domestic rental properties have the same protection from electric shock that homeowners have.


Smoke Alarms

Legal obligations

Since 1 July 2007, homes in Queensland must have at least one smoke alarm installed. If your home was built after 1997, it should have at least one 240v (hard-wired) smoke alarm installed.  This is a requirement under the Building Code of Australia (BCA). If your home was built before 1 July 1997, you must have installed at least one 9 volt battery operated smoke alarm.

Landlord responsibilities (Queensland)

You are required to install smoke alarms in your rental property. 

Every 12 months all smoke alarms must be tested and cleaned and if battery operated, batteries must be charged within 30 days before the start or renewal of the tenancy all must be done according to manufacturer’s instructions. (Penalties apply)
You must replace the smoke alarm unit before it reaches the end of its service life.(Usually indicated by the warranty offered by its manufacturer.)

Seller’ responsibilities (Queensland)

To ensure compliance, if you are selling a property you will be required to lodge a form with the Queensland Land Registry stating that operational smoke alarms are installed in the property.


(1 Sept, 2016)

Queensland homes will be required to be fitted with photoelectric, interconnected smoke alarms in all bedrooms, as well as hallways as part of legislation passed in parliament on 1 September.


All houses being built or significantly renovated will need to comply with the smoke alarm legislation upon completion after January 1, 2017. All houses leased or sold will need to meet compliance after five years and all owner-occupied private dwellings will need to comply with the legislation with 10 years.


Any smoke alarm being replaced after January 1, 2019 must be a photoelectric alarm.


Fire and Emergency Services Minister Bill Byrne said the legislation followed recommendations handed down after the 2011 Slacks Creek fatal house fire. The legislation specified that every Queensland residence will need to be fitted with photoelectric, interconnected smoke alarms in all bedrooms, as well as hallways of residences.


Minister Byrne said a 10 year phased rollout of the legislation would allow ample time for everyone to have their alarms installed correctly.


“Hard-wired, interconnected photoelectric smoke alarms will require a qualified electrician to conduct the installation and ensure the alarms are working as they should be,” he said.


  “There is an option to install photoelectric alarms with a 10-year lithium battery that have the capability to achieve interconnectedness wirelessly between alarms. This option may be more suitable for Queenslanders living in remote areas where attendance of an electrician could be difficult.


For more information on Queensland's new smoke alarm laws visit https://queenslandsmokealarms.com.au/