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Smoke Alarms & CO Alarms for Letting Agents

Under current UK legislation landlords looking to rent property must have a Smoke Alarm fitted on each storey of the rental property. Additionally, if solid fuel fires/stoves are present in the property they are also required to supply and fit a Carbon Monoxide alarms.

Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarm (England) Regulations 2015

The Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarm (England) Regulations 2015 came into force on 1st October 2015 bringing important changes, stating 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).

The aim of this 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 your responsibilities as a landlord regarding this.

Failure to comply with this legislation can lead to a civil penalty being imposed of up to £5,000.

Before any new Tenancy

Following the initial installation of the alarms, it is also the responsibility of the landlord to ensure that these alarms are checked and are in full working order before the start of each new tenancy. We would advocate that you or your landlord document the checks, and condition of the alarms on commencement of every new tenancy.

Which properties are covered by the legislation?

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.

Properties exempt from this legislation

Various properties are exempt from the Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarm (England) Regulations 2015 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.
  • Hostels
  • Care homes
  • Hospitals

How many alarms Smoke Alarms?

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.

How many 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 are to 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 practice for landlords to install carbon monoxide alarms in these rooms ( indeed the current review of the legislation suggests this may be changing in future versions of the Regulations )

What type of Smoke or Carbon Monoxide 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 is responsible for enforcing the regulations and if they think that a landlord has not implemented the rules correctly they will be able to issue a 28-day remedial notice requiring the landlord tests/fits new alarms within the 28-day 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).

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