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A Landlords Guide to: The Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarm (England) Regulations 2015

Introduction

The legislation introduced in October 2015 has helped to standardise and clarify the responsibilities of landlords when it comes to installing smoke and carbon monoxide (CO) alarms to protect their residents. Existing rules meant that owners of property built prior to June 1992 were not legally obliged to have smoke alarms installed. The updated legislation ensures that ALL rental properties and their residents are adequately protected against fire and carbon monoxide, and our guide is intended to help you interpret these rules.

Why has this change been made?

The legislation is part of a wider effort to increase fire and carbon monoxide safety across the UK. The statistics below, drawn from a variety of sources, highlight why the government has been so keen to redress the imbalance between protection levels for private tenants versus the rest of the housing sector.

Smoke alarm coverage in privately rented accommodation stands at 83%. This is the lowest of any housing type. Source Official Impact Assessment conducted by government prior to announcement of legislation.

Between April 2013 and March 2014, 97 people died and 1900 were injured in domestic fires affecting properties where no smoke alarm was present. Source: Fire Statistic Great Britain 2013-14

The risk of a CO related incident occurring in the private rental sector is three times greater than the risk for other housing types. Source: Gas Safety Trust Carbon Monoxide Incident Report 2012

A study of 1758 emergency department patients displaying symptoms that could be associated with CO poisoning found that only 16% had a CO alarm installed in their home. Source: BMJ (formerly British Medical Journal) Article 2012

Who does the legislation apply to?

The Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarm (England) Regulations 2015 apply to all Landlords within England bar a few exceptions. Those exempt from the legislation include:

  • Landlords sharing accommodation with their tenants
  • Landlords granting a right of occupation for a term of 7 years or more
  • Landlords who are registered providers of social housing

Responsibility for the enforcement of the legislation lies with the relevant local housing authority, and breaches of the guidance can be punished by a fine of up to £5000.

How will this affect me?

Many landlords already provide excellent protection by installing smoke alarms throughout their properties. However, carbon monoxide detectors have not necessarily been considered part of a landlord's duty of care in the past. The statistic that residents of rental properties are three times more likely to suffer a CO related incident than a homeowner highlights how important the provision of CO alarms is, and the new legislation is intended to redress this imbalance.

Different types of properties are affected to different degrees. Under the previous regulations, some types of properties were assessed to different standards in terms of smoke alarms. Whilst this may still hold true, especially for HMOs which come under greater scrutiny, there is now a universal baseline in terms of smoke and CO alarm protection. The table below breaks down the consequences of the legislation and identifies best practice for a range of common property types:

Property Type Effect of Legislation Best Practice
Assured Tenancy / Assured Shorthold Tenancy (Pre 1992 construction) Legal responsibility to ensure CO alarms are installed. Must provide smoke alarms on every floor. An interconnected system of longlife or mains smoke alarms throughout property.

CO alarms present in all high risk rooms.
Assured Tenancy / Assured Shorthold Tenancy (Post 1992 construction) Legal responsibility to ensure CO alarms are installed.
HMO 1 or 2 Story. Individual floor area of no more than 200sqm Legal responsibility to ensure CO alarms are installed. A fire risk assessment to identify an appropriate mains powered interconnected smoke alarm system.

CO alarms present in all high risk rooms.
HMO 3 Stories or higher Legal responsibility to ensure CO alarms are installed. A fire risk assessment to identify an appropriate fire alarm system with a central panel.

CO alarms present in all high risk rooms.

Where exactly should I install the alarms?

The new rules make the provision of both smoke and carbon monoxide detectors compulsory, but don't explicitly state exactly where landlords should site them. At present the legislation dictates that a landlord must ensure:

"a smoke alarm is equipped on each storey of the premises on which there is a room used wholly or partly as living accommodation"

"a carbon monoxide alarm is equipped in any room of the premises which is used wholly or partly as living accommodation and contains a solid fuel burning combustion appliance"

These two directives allow you to accurately calculate the amount of detectors required relative to the types of rooms on each floor, but fail to give guidance as to the exact placement or the type of smoke detector.

There are, however, a few general pieces of advice we can offer to help you establish the best locations for your alarms and the most suitable type of detector. It is impossible to offer advice that covers all eventualities, but these rules of thumb should give you a solid foundation from which to decide where to install your alarms.

Smoke alarm placement tips-

  • If you only have one alarm per floor, cover any downstairs hallways with optical smoke alarms and any landings on subsequent floors with ionisation smoke alarms. This setup plays to the strengths of each sensor type to ensure a quick response to any fires without causing unnecessary false alarms.
  • Make sure the alarms are audible from any bedrooms.
  • Site your smoke alarms at least 30cm from any walls. This avoids the 'dead air' zone where smoke can take longer to reach sensors.
  • Avoid placing alarms within 30cm of any light fittings or obstructions on the ceiling.
  • Consider installing an additional heat alarm in the kitchen, but never rely on this to protect an entire floor as heat alarms are only effective over a short distance.

Carbon monoxide alarm placement tips-

  • Site your alarms more than 2 metres, and ideally less than 4 metres away from any appliances.
  • If wall mounting your detector, ensure the device is roughly 1.5m from ground level.
  • Site your alarms at least 30cm from any walls, and avoid placing them near to doors and windows.
  • Make sure the alarms are audible from any bedrooms.

Whilst it is ultimately up to you as an individual to consider the best placement for any alarms within your properties, we hope the guidance above will help you make those decisions.

Who is responsible for maintaining the alarms?

In basic terms, landlords must ensure that alarms are provided and working, but routine maintenance and testing then falls to the occupants of the property. Should the alarms develop a fault or expire during a tenancy it remains the responsibility of a landlord to replace them.

The legislation states that a landlord must make certain that:

"checks are made by or on behalf of the landlord to ensure that each prescribed alarm is in proper working order on the day the tenancy begins if it is a new tenancy"

Once the alarms have been established as working, whether a new tenancy or a tenancy overlapping the introduction of the legislation, many landlords ask tenants to sign a document confirming that alarms have been tested in their presence. This can also be used to clarify for the benefit of the tenants that the duty of maintenance falls to them from that point forwards.

What happens if I don't comply?

Local housing authorities across England now have the power to serve remedial notices to any landlord they have "reasonable grounds to believe" is not in compliance with the regulations. Failure to take appropriate remedial action within the specified timeframe (usually 28 days) will leave you open to a fine of up to £5000 per property.

Where can I get further advice?

Whilst any final judgements regarding compliance can only be made by your local authority, we are happy to offer our expertise to help you identify the best products to ensure you comply.

Safelincs offers a vast array of smoke alarms designed to meet a variety of specific needs with options to suit any budget. There is also an excellent selection of carbon monoxide detectors on offer and a variety of information resources throughout the website.

We offer a comprehensive advice section dedicated to helping landlords handle fire safety issues. You will also find a section within our widely praised forum specifically for landlords.

Of course, if you have any further questions regarding this legislation that have not been covered, please feel free to contact our customer service team via support@safelincs.co.uk, or on 0800 612 6537. We would be happy to help, and will always aim to identify the most cost effective products to ensure you comply with this legislation.

 

Reviewed: 20/03/2019 (doc:123 V1.1). Our articles are reviewed regularly. However, any changes made to standards or legislation following the review date will not have been considered. Please note that we provide abridged, easy-to-understand guidance. To make detailed decisions about your fire safety provisions, you might require further advice or need to consult the full standards and legislation.

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