Which Countries Have the Slackest Smoke Alarm Laws?

James McCay

Sep 22, 2023

Smoke detectors (similar to fire alarms but technically different) sound the alarm when they detect smoke to warn people, helping to give occupants of a building or room time to investigate the source and/or escape.

You may assume that such life-saving technology would be ubiquitous across the modern world.

However, as experts in home and contents insurance, we did some research and found that there is actually a whole host of countries that have surprisingly lax or weak laws in regard to smoke detectors.

Here’s what we found.

Most of Europe is lacking strong smoke detector laws

Of the 40 nations we examined, all of those with the lowest score were in Europe. The vast majority were Mediterranean, Iberian and Balkan nations such as Spain, Greece, Italy, Croatia, Bulgaria and Slovakia, plus other European countries like Switzerland and Poland.

On our scoring system, there were 18 nations that all had the same low score of one – meaning that smoke detectors are optional but not mandatory in residential homes.

There were some European nations which scored higher; Austria, Germany, Ireland and the UK all received the highest score, sharing this rating with the USA and New Zealand. These nations mandate multiple smoke detectors per residence.

Some European countries also scored fairly well, but didn’t achieve the highest score as they only mandate a minimum of one smoke detector per occupancy. These were Belgium, Czechia, Denmark, Estonia, France, Latvia, Lithuania, Netherlands, Norway and Sweden.

The countries with the slackest smoke detector laws in the world

We examined current rules and regulations around smoke detectors in 40 countries from across the globe, including nations in Europe, North America, the Indo-Pacific and other regions. Based on the laws within these countries, each was given a score from one to four, with one being the lowest score and four being the best.

The graphic below outlines what nations achieved each score, with the scoring system explained at the end.

Scoring System


A score of 1 was given to countries where smoke detectors are optional for residential properties.

A score of 2 was given to countries where smoke alarms are required in residential buildings of a certain size.

A score of 3 was given to countries where one smoke detector is required in the property at a minimum.

A score of 4 was given to countries where multiple smoke detectors are required in the property.
Local state or territory rules can differ within a country.
Commercial and industrial spaces, hotels and hospitals typically do require smoke detectors, even in countries with more lax rules regarding residential properties such as houses or apartments.
These laws are subject to change.

Why doesn’t Australia have a top score?

Australia missed out on top marks because in its most populous states, New South Wales and Victoria, only one smoke detector is required per floor.1,2  While this means multi-storey homes would earn a high score, single-storey homes are only required to have one, which saw Australia receive the second-highest result.

However, the state of Queensland has some of the strongest smoke alarm requirements in the world. Following a coronial inquest into a house fire in 2011 where 11 people perished, it was found the home had lacked functioning smoke alarms. This meant the occupants had no warning of the blaze.3

Now Queensland houses must require multiple inter-connected (meaning when one is triggered all alarms are activated) photo-electric smoke alarms throughout the house, in bedrooms and hallways or on the nearest path to exit a floor.4

Adrian Taylor, the General Manager of General Insurance at Compare the Market, says if more Australian states adopted legislation similar to Queensland, Australia would move up in the table to join other nations with strong smoke detector laws such as New Zealand, Germany, the UK and USA.

“Any homeowner or landlord should want to ensure adequate smoke and fire detection systems are in place. Smoke alarms save lives and can help reduce damage to property by warning people as soon as a fire is detected,” Taylor says.

“Whether you own the home yourself or rent it out, you should always make sure your home is safe and complies with the laws in your area. For countries where it is optional but not required, it is definitely a worthy investment.”

Will flat smoke alarm batteries void your home insurance?

If the battery on your smoke alarm is dead and a fire occurs, it may be possible that a home or contents insurance claim for any related damage could be denied, Taylor explains.

“In Australia, home insurance providers typically have wording in their policy saying that the home must be compliant with local laws, such as the new requirements in Queensland. If your battery is flat and you haven’t replaced it, that could impact the outcome of a claim if a fire occurs.

“Make sure you check the Product Disclosure Statement (PDS) policy document and do a bit of home maintenance to ensure your smoke alarms are in working order. It will help keep you safe, and help you meet relevant obligations under your insurance policy,” says Taylor.



Accurate as of 09/08/2023 but subject to change.

In-text references:

  1. NSW Smoke Alarms – It’s the Law. Fire and Rescue NSW, New South Wales Government. 2023.
  2. Smoke alarms. Fire Rescue Victoria. Victorian Government. 2023.
  3. Coronial findings – Slack Creek house fire. Office of the State Coroner, Queensland Courts, Queensland Government. 2014.
  4. Smoke alarms. Queensland Fire and Emergency Services, Queensland Government. 2023.