Resident taken to court over burnt toast
A high-rise apartment tenant accused of “tampering” with their smoke alarm after burning toast is now facing legal action in what he says is “unnecessarily stressful”.
Beaudi Anderson said he couldn’t silence his smoke alarm after burning toast in his apartment on February 23 – which, unbeknown to him, had led to multiple other alarms to malfunction within the building at 288 Spencer St.
A technician was sent to his apartment three days later to fix the alarm, but after thinking the issue was resolved, Mr Anderson was shocked to be told three months later that his landlord wanted him out because he had allegedly jeopardised the safety of other residents.
“They [real estate agent] told me my landlord was trying to evict me over that situation, saying that I tampered with their fire alarm,” Mr Anderson said, adding his landlord was seeking $1700 to cover the bill for the technician’s services.
Mr Anderson, 28, refused to pay as he maintained he was not in any wrong, with the matter now listed for a hearing at the Melbourne’s Magistrate’s Court on July 25.
“I could not get this thing to silence, it had no buttons or batteries so I [disconnected it and] just put it back and it eventually stopped,” he said of his smoke alarm, which was “something any reasonable person could do by accident”.
I did not tamper [with] it in doing so.
The building’s owners’ corporation (OC), Binks and Associates, said the tenant failed to report the smoke alarm issue, which “affected several apartments”.
“Obviously tampering with a smoke alarm is a dangerous thing to do and while the OC has no direct contractual relationship with a renter, it expended a significant amount of effort to ensure that the renter (via its rental agent and landlord) was aware that the action the renter took was not acceptable,” Binks and Associates’ managing director Ben Commerford said.
Mr Commerford said the OC’s essential safety measures contractor attended its regular weekly inspection on February 27 this year “and discovered an issue with the system that affected several apartments and after being brought to the attention of the manager, was rectified within two hours”.
But he made clear “the OC has no ability to evict a tenant, this is a matter between the two parties to the rental contract”.
After conducting his own investigation, Mr Anderson said he discovered the building had a conventional fire alarm system installed, in which fire or smoke is detected within a zone, meaning multiple areas rather than a specific location. This is believed to possibly delay emergency responders from pinpointing a fire.
According to RED Fire Engineers technical director Aaron Nicholson, who does not conduct any services or maintenance at 200 Spencer St but agreed to comment about different fire alarm systems and building code of Australia requirements, said unwanted activations or faults showing at a fire indicator panel should be reported to owners’ corporations.
“Conventional fire detection and alarm systems are older technology than the newer addressable fire detection and alarm systems,” he said.
“In simplistic terms, think of conventional systems as all detectors on a single wire which runs out in a line and stops at the last detector. This means that removal of a detector breaks the line and the detectors past that point cannot be ‘seen’ by the fire indicator panel and will not operate.”
Mr Anderson, who moved out of the building on his own terms in May, reported the matter to Melbourne Greens MP Ellen Sandell who has since written to the Minister for Emergency Services to escalate the issue.
“I’m really concerned to hear reports that dangerous fire alarm systems could be putting residents at risk throughout the city,” she said.
“The state government should immediately investigate this matter and take steps to ensure that all CBD residents have high-quality, safe fire alarm systems installed.”
A Fire Rescue Victoria spokesperson said: “If building residents have a concern about their building’s fire safety system or its components, firstly raise it with the building management. If they feel it has not been resolved, they can contact Fire Rescue Victoria via the website and report a fire safety issue.” •
Caption: Beaudi Anderson at his city apartment.