Are you compliant with smoke and carbon monoxide alarm regulations?

For landlords the laws surrounding smoke and carbon monoxide alarms are clear. It is important to take these regulations seriously as they could mean the difference between life and death for your tenants. The government report that, in the event of a fire in your home, you are at least four times more likely to die if there is no working smoke alarm present; a risk that is not worth taking.

The 1st October 2015 saw the introduction of new smoke and carbon monoxide regulations, known as the Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarm (England) Regulations 2015 that were put in place to help ensure that private sector tenants are safe in their homes.

The regulations state that private rented sector landlords must;

  • Ensure that at least one smoke alarm is installed on every storey of their rental property and that there is a carbon monoxide alarm in any room that contains a solid fuel burning appliance (this could be a coal fire or wood burning stove) where their property is used as living accommodation
  • Ensure at the start of each new tenancy that all alarms are in good working order

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In addition to this regulation there is some further advice for private rented sector landlords:

  • While carbon monoxide alarms are only required in rooms that contain a solid fuel burning appliance, gas appliances can also emit carbon monoxide. The government ‘expect and encourage reputable landlords’ to ensure that carbon monoxide alarms are also installed in rooms that have gas appliances for added security. It is recommended that carbon monoxide alarms are positioned at head height approximately one to three metres from a potential carbon monoxide source. The alarm could be placed on a shelf or the wall
  • It is not stipulated by the regulations where smoke alarms should be placed, just that at least one smoke alarm is installed on every storey of the property. Despite this, best practice suggests that smoke alarms should be fitted to the ceiling in a circulation space. This refers to a hall or landing
  • The government do not, at this time, stipulate the type of alarms that should be installed (hard wired or battery operated). It is therefore for landlords to make informed decisions about the best alarm for their tenants and property
  • Heat detectors are not a replacement for smoke alarms
  • You should always follow individual manufacturer’s instructions when installing alarms in your property to ensure that they are safe, work correctly and are compliant
  • While landlords must test that each alarm in the property works correctly at the start of every tenancy, it is the tenant’s responsibility to ensure the alarms continue to work throughout their tenancy by carrying out regular tests. It is recommended by the government that these tests are carried out monthly and any issues reported to the landlord immediately.

It is imperative that landlords are aware of their obligations and act accordingly to ensure the security and safety of their tenants. Visit the government website for a full breakdown of the Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarm (England) Regulations 2015.

In February 2019 a renting family of four were saved by a working smoke alarm which alerted them to a fire that led to extensive damage to their home. The landlord, who had followed the regulations correctly and installed and maintained smoke detectors in the property, made the difference between life and death for that family.

Find out more about our top fire safety tips and advice for landlords.

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What happens if you fail to comply?

Failure to comply with the regulations carries heavy penalties. Local authorities can impose fines of up to £5,000 where landlords fail to comply with a remedial notice.

After the introduction of legislation in 2015 no grace period was given to landlords and so ALL landlords should be compliant with legislation by now, taking into account the time that has elapsed since its introduction.

However, whilst the penalties imposed on landlords who fail to comply are severe, the biggest deterrent is clearly the potential loss of life. Landlords should not underestimate the danger that smoke, fire and carbon monoxide pose to tenants. It is important not to be complacent when it comes to checking that alarms are in good working order, or responding to tenant concerns about safety in the property.  It is better to be safe than sorry.

Other regulations

Landlords must however be aware that the Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarm (England) Regulations 2015 cannot be followed in isolation and do not cover all the fire safety requirements that a landlord’s property may be subject to. Additional legislation includes, but is not limited to, Part 1 of the Housing Act 2004 and the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 that also provide landlords with fire safety requirements designed to protect their tenants and property.

The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 stipulates that landlords are required to carry out periodical fire risk assessments in the common areas of HMOs, flats, maisonettes and sheltered accommodation.

Tenants are also required to have access to escape routes at all times.

Landlords should ensure that they are up to date with the most recent requirements as legislation is subject to change. You can find out the most up to date regulations through the GOV.UK website.

For example, there is currently a government review into carbon monoxide alarms, with potential ramifications for properties with oil and gas boilers, and also social housing. The report is due to be published this year and so regulations around carbon monoxide alarms could potentially change.

Protect your property against the risks involved in letting out a property by ensuring you have taken out comprehensive buy to let insurance.

Read more about your current landlord obligations from GOV.UK. You can also find out more information on your responsibilities as a landlord in ‘Legislation for landlords: Everything you need to know‘.