Changes to the Western Australian Building Regulations 2012 as of 22nd January 2018

 In Property Management

Happy New Year to you all.

We’ve kicked 2018 off with a bang! Since returning to the office after a well-earned Christmas break, we’ve leased 24 properties this month.  We had a flurry of enquiry across our available rentals, and with such a strong start to the year, there’s certainly active signs of market stability. However it is still very important to ensure your property is well presented, has modern conveniences, and maintain a realistic rental expectation. Professional photos are certainly helping generate steady enquiry, and the use of virtual staging.

You may have noticed in your January statement that you received copies of your invoices – going forward you will be receiving all the invoices that will be paid in that month with your end of month statement.

To keep you up-to-date on property regulations, please find below a copy of an email from our electrical contractor in regards to changes to Smoke Alarm regulations which came into effect 22 January 2018 and a preview to the new RCD regulations coming in later this year.

Changes to the Western Australian Building Regulations 2012 as of 22nd January 2018

Until now we as Electrical Contractors have been governed by the WA Building Code that required properties for Sale or Lease to have “a hard-wired smoke alarm” installed. Neither, location, how many or type of smoke alarm have been previously laid out in legislation, which has created grey areas in recent years when completing compliance checks. Finally, we have some definitive clarity in the attached WA Building Commission directive where they have advised of smoke alarm type to be used, location of smoke alarms and the ongoing requirement to ensure smoke alarms are maintained.

Although there is still no legislation in Western Australia that requires “compliance checks” to be legally completed, I cannot stress enough the importance to compel property managers to be proactive in ensuring their owners and themselves are protected to any unfortunate accident with regards fires and electrocution.

We have below listed some extractions from the directive which relates to sales and property management departments for which we work with. Please read the full document for other information provided.

Property Type:

Class 1a (single dwelling being a detached house, or row houses, duplexes, town houses, terrace houses or villa units)
Class 2 (apartments and flats in a building containing two or more units)


New Changes:

Smoke alarm requirements and location:

The location of smoke alarms must be in accordance with the BCA applicable at the time of installation of the alarms. The number of smoke alarms to be installed depends on the classification of the dwelling and its general layout and size.

Hard wired smoke alarms are required to be installed where roof access is available and cabling for smoke alarms can be hidden. Where cable can’t be hidden due to roof space access or for example concrete ceilings in apartment blocks, then a 10yr lithium smoke alarm is allowable. 10yr lithium smoke alarms must only be of the sort where the battery cannot be removed.

In a Class 1a dwelling smoke alarms must be installed on or near the ceiling in:
a.       Storey containing bedrooms –
• between each part of the dwelling containing bedrooms and the remainder of the dwelling; and
• where bedrooms are served by a hallway, in that hallway; and

b.      any other storey not containing bedrooms, even if those storey’s consist only of car parking, bathrooms, laundries and the like.

In a Class 2 dwelling, the location of smoke alarms inside the dwelling/unit is alike to the examples in a Class 1a dwelling.

Properties to be demolished:

An exemption for the seller to install smoke alarms to a property that is to be sold for demolition is available. The exemption must take form of a Statutory Declaration from the purchaser stating that they will demolish the property within 6 months of the settlement date. Failure to do this will require the purchaser to install smoke alarms at their expense.

Alarm system smoke alarms:

Smoke alarms that are powered through a home security system in dwellings that are subject to sale, transfer of ownership, rent or hire may not comply with the smoke alarm laws. While the home security system may be on 240 volts from the consumer mains power, a feed of 12 volt to the smoke alarm would not comply with the requirement for smoke alarms to be permanently connected to consumer mains power. In other words, the power for the smoke alarms must be separate to the power source for the home security system and the smoke alarms permanently connected to consumer mains power.

In simple terms, those properties that have an alarm system installed that are a plug-in type and have low voltage smoke alarms are non-compliant and will still require a new 240-volt mains powered hard wired smoke alarm installed.

Requirement to maintain smoke alarms:

Owners who rent or hire their dwelling are required by law to maintain the smoke alarms.
This includes ensuring the smoke alarm:
• is in working order; is permanently connected to mains power;
• is less than 10 years old, or has not reached its expiry date if one is provided on the alarm; and
• if the use of a battery powered smoke alarm has been approved under the Regulations, the alarm has a 10-year life battery that cannot be removed.

How to maintain smoke alarms:

For smoke alarms to remain in working order they should be tested and maintained regularly.
The Department of Fire and Emergency Services recommends the following maintenance routine:
• Testing once per month to ensure the battery and the alarm sounder are operating.
• Check the smoke alarm for any build-up of dust and cobwebs and clean with a vacuum cleaner at least every six months.
• Vacuum with a soft brush attachment around the smoke alarm vents.
• Use a surface insect spray around the smoke alarm to prevent insects nesting inside.
• Replacing batteries annually (mains powered smoke alarms generally have back-up batteries).
• Smoke alarms should never be painted.

Please refer to the following link https://www.commerce.wa.gov.au/publications/smoke-alarm-laws

The New Wiring Rules – Your Sneak Preview

Residual current devices (RCDs)

While the existing requirement of a maximum of three circuits per RCD and minimum of two RCDs remain, RCDs will be required on all final sub-circuits in domestic installations including fixed electrical equipment (e.g. cooktops, hot water systems and air-conditioning units).

In simple terms, this means that when the new Wiring Rules apply (likely to be prior to July 2018) most existing switchboards will be non-compliant. Our estimation is that 95% will require at least one additional RCD installed and could possibly be as many as 4 required. The Energy Safety paragraph above states that all hard-wired appliances shall require RCD protection, including Hot Water Systems, A/C units, Cooktops and Ovens. At present, most properties do not have RCD protection to these appliances. This will incur more expense for your owners to install the required additional RCD’s. Where limited switchboard room is available to install RCD’s, a full switchboard upgrade will be required. So, the potential overall expense for your owners is quite possibly going to extend towards the $1000 mark as a result.

We will keep you up to date as and when the new Wiring Rules come into effect and explain further the requirements for each of your properties as they are inspected. I’m sure we will be talking daily more so as a result of these changes.

Isolator switches

When replacing hard wired appliances there will be the new requirement to ensure that they have isolation switches installed. New switches must be accessible and be located within 2 meters of the appliance. This new requirement will be additional to any RCD requirements and to all Electric Hot Water Systems, Electric cooktops, Gas cooktops, Gas ovens and Air Conditioners. Electric ovens will not require an isolation switch but will be required to have an RCD.

Depending on the appliance, these switches will be located on kitchen walls, within kitchen cupboards or on outside walls.

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