Fire chiefs want smoke alarms mandatory in rental homes.
Fire Service bosses are seeking law changes making it compulsory for rental properties to have smoke alarms installed and maintained.
The move comes as three families mourn the deaths of Jake Lindsey Hayes, 19, Connor James Swetman, 17, and Maree Johnston, 23, who died in a blaze that tore through a 95-year-old villa in central Hamilton.
It is understood there were no working smoke alarms in the property.
The Fire Service's Peter Wilding said every person who had died in a house fire since July this year was in a premises without working smoke alarms.
That was also true for eight of the 10 people who died in house fires in the 12 months to June 30 this year. Four people have died in house fires in November, including a 3-year-old boy. A 2-year-old boy was critical last night after a Mt Wellington house fire.
Current building regulations require smoke alarms in all new homes and those that have been renovated, but do not cover regular maintenance.
But Wilding said long-life photoelectric smoke alarms should be in every bedroom and in the hallways between living areas and bedrooms.
With about 680,000 rental properties in the country it would be hard to enforce such rules, but landlords could risk losing their insurance if they did not comply, he said.
"You just have to say, 'Look, you'll void your insurance'," he said.
"It's the international language of money and it's pretty motivational."
Wilding is writing a discussion paper calling for changes to the Tenancy Act that he hoped to submit to the Government soon. "Bottom line is we keep going into homes of people who have died in fires and thinking this could have been prevented."
Building and Housing Minister Nick Smith said he was "more favourably disposed" to the notion of landlords being responsible for providing smoke alarms but tenants being responsible for their maintenance.
"I think that's more practical ... and we need to ensure the responsibilities around improving fire protection falls fairly between the landlord and the tenant."
His ministry was already exploring minimum rental housing standards in Housing New Zealand properties, which included the issue of fire alarms. He would report to Cabinet on that next month.
"I'm keen to explore whether we can make improvements. You always need to be careful that extra regulation is both practical and cost effective," he said.
Smith said he was not sure that voiding landlords' insurance was "a particularly effective route".
Insurance Council chief executive Tim Grafton said making it compulsory for landlords to install and maintain smoke alarms would not necessarily mean they wouldn't get insurance in the event of a fire.
"I guess the government of the day can legislate what it wants but ultimately if it's not legislated it is open to the insurance market to determine its own appetite for risk and whether they want to take it on," he said.