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Carbon monoxide and smoke alarm regulations for landlords in the UK

Lansha Frank

Lansha Frank

2023-09-05 20:30:00 Have read:261 Interesting:0

Whether it’s smoke alarms or a carbon monoxide detector, landlord responsibilities are governed by clear legislation.


But research shows that landlords are often falling short. In fact, 27 per cent of renters don't have a smoke alarm installed on each storey of their home, while 51 per cent are without a carbon monoxide detector.


Failing to comply with legislation could have serious consequences, so it's vital that you know the regulations inside out. Read our guide to make sure you're fully compliant.

How to comply with current smoke and carbon monoxide detector regulations

If you don’t have any alarms fitted, it’s an easy problem to fix. Here’s what you need to do:

The bare minimum

Currently, private rented sector landlords must have at least one smoke alarm fitted on every storey of the rental property which is used as living accommodation.


Carbon monoxide detector regulations are also in force, and you must also have a carbon monoxide alarm in any room used as living accommodation if it contains a solid fuel burning appliance (and a fixed combustion appliance from 1 October 2022). The examples used are usually a coal fire or wood-burning stove as well as gas heaters and boilers.


And remember, heat detectors are not an acceptable replacement for fire alarms.


From there, you’re also legally required to make sure all your alarms are in working order on the first day of any new tenancy, and that they're repaired or replaced when found or reported to be faulty. This is defined by law as the date stipulated in the tenancy agreement, even if the tenant moves in at a later date.


Check your alarms


It’s the first day of the new tenancy and you’ve tested all your alarms. But who’s responsible from here, for the duration of the tenancy?


The guidelines state that tenants should take responsibility for their own safety from this point, testing the alarms regularly. But once it's been reported faulty, it becomes the landlord's responsibilty to repair or replace it.


You could leave it at that, but remember, it’s your property at risk. It’s a good idea to mark dates in the calendar to test the alarms, and let your tenants know you’ll be checking in.


The guidance recommends monthly tests for smoke alarms, and depending on the alarm type, the maximum work required will be to change the battery.


Do I need to install alarms for my existing tenants?


Yes. All properties need to be compliant.


In terms of checking the alarms are working, you’ll need to see to this at the start of each new tenancy and make sure you repair or replace them as soon as you're made aware they're faulty .


Gov.uk define a ‘new tenancy’ as ‘a tenancy agreement that begins on or after 1 October 2015 and is not a renewal of a previous tenancy agreement.’


Are there any exemptions?


Almost all residential tenancies, leases or licences will need to comply with the current landlord smoke alarm legislation. There are some exemptions, including long leases, and you can read up on these in the schedule to the regulations.


Here are some of the key exemptions you may need to know about, depending on your rental type:


Licensed houses of multiple occupation (HMOs)


The regulations apply to unlicensed HMOs, but not to licensed ones. These are exempt from Parts 1 to 5 of the regulations. However, the Housing Act 2004 has been amended with similar requirements, so it makes sense to be alert to the rulings affecting smoke alarms regulations and carbon monoxide detector regulations there.


Social housing


Currently, the regulations don’t apply to social housing landlords. This is mainly because social housing has, so far, been doing a better job of staying on top of landlord smoke alarm requirements.


Live-in landlords and owner-occupiers


Some landlords share the accommodation with their tenant. In these cases, the regulations don’t apply. What exactly counts as sharing can be a slightly grey area, but if both landlord and tenants are using rooms like the kitchen or living room, then they could be considered to be ‘sharing’ the accommodation.


What type of alarm do I need to fit?


You can fit a mains powered or battery powered smoke alarm.


The government website recommends that landlords choose a detector based on the needs of their building, and that they are compliant with the British Standards BS 5839-6.


If you use battery powered alarms, the government website suggests using alarms with 'sealed for life' batteries (instead of replaceable ones).


Where to put smoke alarms


You’ll need one smoke alarm on every storey and a carbon monoxide detector in every room that contains a solid fuel-burning appliance (or a fixed combustion appliance from 1 October 2022). From there it’s best to check with the alarm manufacturer, or see what it says on the packaging.


Gov.uk advises that smoke alarms should be fixed to the ceiling in a ‘circulation space’, such as in a hall or landing. Carbon monoxide alarms should be fitted at head height, on a wall or shelf, about one to three metres from the fuel-burning appliance.


What’s a ‘solid fuel burning appliance’?


Also referred to as ‘solid fuel burning combustion appliances’, these are devices powered using solid fuel such as coal, wood, etc. The regulations don’t include ‘non-functioning, purely decorative fireplace(s)’ or gas cookers in this category.


Do I need a carbon monoxide alarm for gas appliances?


Yes. From 1 October 2022, it's a legal requirement to have a carbon monoxide detector installed in rooms with gas appliances, such as gas boilers and heaters.


This doesn't include gas cookers though.


What counts as ‘living accommodation’?


According to gov.uk and the regulations, ‘living accommodation’ covers ‘rooms used for the primary purposes of living’ or a room ‘in which a person spends a significant amount of time’. A bathroom or toilet could both be classed as living accommodation, according to the regulations.


My tenant won’t allow access for an alarm test


In the first instance, write to your tenant, clearly explaining that it’s a legal requirement to install fire and carbon monoxide alarms, and that this is for their own safety.


If your tenant doesn’t respond or is still refusing to grant access, it’s very important you’re able to prove that you’ve tried to be compliant, should your local authority come knocking with a remedial notice. If they do, take them through the correspondence with your tenant, which should show that you’ve taken all reasonable steps, other than legal proceedings, to become compliant within 28 days of the notice being issued. If you can do this, you’ll be exempt from the fine, which could be as much as £5,000.


How can I prove I’ve checked the alarms?


The guidance suggests a check of the inventory on the first day of the tenancy, by the landlord, which asks the tenant to sign and confirm that the alarms have been tested and that they’re happy everything is in working order.


Will I be fined if I don’t fit an alarm for my tenants?


Your local authority is in charge of enforcing the requirements and would usually start by issuing a remedial notice, requiring you to fit and/or test your alarms within 28 days. For landlords failing to comply, the local authority must arrange for the alarms to be fitted and tested themselves, if the occupier allows access.

Either way, you can expect a fine of up to £5,000 for not not complying.


Can I appeal the penalty charge?


You can make a request in writing to the relevant local authority to have your penalty reviewed. You’ll need to do this within the time period specified in your penalty charge notice. If the charge holds, you could then appeal to the First-tier Tribunal.


Grounds for appeal are explained in regulation 11, and if your appeal is lodged, the penalty can’t be enforced until your appeal has been ‘finally determined’ or withdrawn.


Where can I get free smoke alarms?


The good news is that many local fire services will provide free smoke alarms, usually as part of an overall fire safety check on your property. Eligibility criteria does depend though, so it's worth checking with your local fire service. You can find your local fire service's contact details on the National Fire Chiefs Council website.


Also, check out our article on fire safety regulations and landlords’ responsibilities to get the full picture.


Landlord smoke and carbon monoxide alarm requirements outside of England


For smoke alarm and carbon monoxide detector law, England has its own set of regulations. You can read The Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarm (England) Regulations 2015 to make sure you’re absolutely compliant.


As regulations for Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales carry specific wording, make sure you read through the resources below depending on where your buy-to-let property is located.


Scotland


Check the Scottish government site if you need to understand the landlord smoke alarm requirements for Scotland.


Wales


Wales has a great resource centre on its government-supported Rent Smart site. You’ll want to check the Code of Practice in particular, but there's plenty of other useful resources on there too.


Northern Ireland


For landlords in Northern Ireland, NIDirect has a page on health and safety regulations in rented accommodation, with specific advice for landlords and HMO owners around fire safety and monoxide checks.

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