I am a new landlord - do I need to install Smoke and Carbon Monoxide alarms in my rented property?
The short answer is YES if you are a landlord looking to rent out your property you must have smoke alarms. Whether you need a Carbon Monoxide alarm will depend on whether you have any solid fuel fires/ stoves in your property.
On the 1st October 2015 there were important changes made to the regulations regarding Smoke and Carbon Monoxide alarms in rented properties. All landlords need to be aware of their responsibilities to install the required alarms in their properties, understand the reasons for doing so and the possible implications of them not complying with the new legislation.
The Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarm (England) Regulations 2015 state that smoke alarms need to be installed on every storey of rented residential properties. In addition to this, the legislation also states that Carbon Monoxide alarms must be installed in any room containing a solid fuel burning device (e.g. a coal fire or a wood burning stove). Following the initial installation of the alarms it is then also the responsibility of the landlord to ensure that these are checked and are in full working order before the start of each new tenancy. Historically, prior to this legislation, owners/landlords of properties built before June 1992 were not required to have smoke alarms installed in their rented accommodation, so many landlords may not understand their new legal obligations.
The aim of this updated legislation is to ensure that all rented properties and their residents are adequately protected against the risk of fire and carbon monoxide poisoning which can obviously pose not only a serious threat to tenant safety but also cause costly damage to the property. The regulations also help to clarify the responsibilities of the landlord regarding this.
As matters of tenant safety are of the utmost importance, failure to comply with this legislation can lead to a civil penalty being imposed of up to £5000.00.
The below guide outlines the specific changes in legislation and what changes need to be made to remain compliant with the regulations.
Why do I need to install these alarms?
It is expected that by enforcing the installation of smoke and carbon monoxide alarms that at least 25 deaths and nearly 700 injuries caused by fire and carbon monoxide poisoning will be prevented per year. Statistics show that people are 4 times more likely to die in a house fire when there are no smoke alarms installed.
Carbon Monoxide, commonly known by the chemical symbol CO is a potentially deadly gas which is colourless, tasteless and odourless, therefore audible detectors in rooms with devices that could potentially leak the gas are imperative.
Is my premises affected by the changes in legislation?
These changes in legislation apply to all residential rented properties which comprise a dwelling; these duties will apply to a flat over a shop for example. In the event that the property is a licensed HMO or subject to other selective licensing then it is the responsibility of the license holder to ensure that mandatory conditions imposed in relation to the installation of smoke and carbon monoxide alarms are complied with.
Various properties are exempt to these new regulations including;
‘Long lease’ tenancies (more than 7 years).
A tenancy where the tenant/occupier shares accommodation with the landlord of a member of the landlord’s family; accommodation in this definition would include a toilet, bathroom, kitchen or living area etc. but does not extend to shared access or storage facilities.
Student halls of residence.
How many alarms do I need and where should they be situated?
A smoke alarm should be installed on each storey of the premises where there is a room used ‘wholly or partially as living accommodation’. By ‘living accommodation’ this means any room where a person spends a significant amount of time such as bedrooms, kitchens and dining rooms. This legislation specifically stipulates that bathrooms and lavatories are classed as living accommodation for the purposes of installation of alarms. A storey of a property that only comprises a hallway/landing and a lavatory therefore would require a smoke alarm. For the purpose of these regulations a storey should be taken in its usual meaning so a mezzanine floor within a larger living area would not be considered a separate storey.
The legislation does not provide guidance on exactly where within a room smoke alarms should be positioned however manufacturers’ instructions should give directions as to the best place to position the alarms. Generally smoke alarms should be fixed to the ceiling in a ‘circulation space’ i.e. a hall or landing.
Carbon Monoxide Alarms:
Carbon Monoxide alarms must be equipped in all rooms where there is a ‘solid fuel burning combustion device’ such as an open fire, a wood burning stove or any other appliance that burns solid fuel (coal, wood etc.) Any room, regardless of its purpose or whether it is classed as ‘living accommodation’ should be fitted with an alarm if needed.
Again, the legislation does not state where carbon monoxide alarms be fixed and manufacturer’s instructions should be followed however as before, it is generally advised that carbon monoxide alarms should be positioned at head height approximately 1-3 metres away from the potential source of carbon monoxide.
Carbon monoxide alarms are not currently legally required in rooms with gas or oil appliances, however as gas appliances can emit carbon monoxide it would be considered best practise for reputable landlords to install carbon monoxide alarms in these rooms.
What type of alarm should be installed?
The legislation does not stipulate whether hard-wired or battery powered alarms should be installed so landlords are expected to make an informed decision and choose the best alarms based on their tenant and property needs, however it does state that heat detectors are not sufficient in place of smoke alarms or carbon monoxide alarms.
What can happen to a landlord who does not comply?
The Local Housing authority are responsible for enforcing the new regulations and if they think that a landlord has not implemented the new rules correctly they will be able to issue a 28 day remedial notice requiring the landlord tests/fits new alarms within the period. If the landlord does not comply with the remedial notice the housing authority will arrange for the required works to be carried out.
As long as a landlord can demonstrate that they have taken all reasonable steps to comply then they will not be held responsible for alarms not being installed or tested (i.e. in the event that the occupier is not allowing access for the works to be completed).
If you are a landlord of ludlowthompson we are able to supply and install smoke and carbon monoxide alarms on your behalf; We will guide you prior to any new let of your responsibilities with regards to Smoke and Carbon Monoxide alarms to ensure the property is safe and meets required legislation. Should you have any concerns regarding Smoke and Carbon Monoxide alarms in your rented property please contact us for further information.
10th March 2016
DISCLAIMER: Neither ludlowthompson nor their ‘experts’ take any responsibility for any action or loss incurred by readers of these pages. The reader acts on advice at their own risk. Answers to questions are not exhaustive. Financial advice must always be sought from a professional financial adviser
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