Victorian coroner recommends mandatory smoke alarm installation for all rentals

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A coroner has recommended sweeping changes to Victorian tenancy laws after a man died trying to escape a fire in a property not equipped with a smoke detector.

Simon Peter Scarff, 52, died in the early hours of February 12, 2022 at his rental home on Almurta Street in Alfredton.

Coroner Paul Lawrie found that no smoke alarm had been installed in the ground floor unit where Mr Scarff lived alone.

Victorian law does not require landlords to ensure properties have a working alarm for leases entered into before March 29, 2021, or fixed-term agreements of more than five years that become periodic leases after that date.

Mr Scarff had a periodic tenancy agreement from December 20, 2020.

Long-term tenants ‘no less deserving’

According to Residential Tenancies Bond Authority data from July 2023, which was included in the coroner’s report, 43.5 per cent of rental properties were not required to meet smoke detector safety requirements.

Mr Lawrie recommended that the Government consider amending the Residential Tenancies Act to require rental providers to ensure that working smoke detectors are installed and regularly tested in all rental agreements, including those entered into before March 29, 2021.

“A proportion of the Victorian population will be long-term or lifelong renters and a percentage of those people, having secured a rental property, will remain there for an extended period – long after their initial rental period has expired and their lease has been converted. a periodic rental agreement,” he says.

“They deserve no less the protection afforded by these important changes to the Residential Tenancies Act 1997 relating to electrical, gas and smoke alarm safety activities.”

Mr Lawrie sent his condolences to Mr Scarff’s family.

The Minister of Consumer Affairs and Public Services, Gabrielle Williams, has been contacted for comment.

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