New Carbon Monoxide & Smoke Detector Legislation from 1st October
By the time you read this, new regulations will have come into force in England mandating that rental properties come equipped with both smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. Similar changes will effect shared houses, flats and bedsits. Owners of such properties will need to comply with these rules, or be faced with a fine of up to £5,000. But what exactly do they do? Let’s see if we can find out.
Who is responsible?
The immediate landlord is responsible for making sure that these regulations are complied with. In the case of licenced houses in multiple occupation (HMOs) or those subject to selective licencing, the responsibility falls to the licence holder. Providers of social housing are exempt.
Which premises are effected?
It’s worth being clear exactly what we’re talking about here: the new rules are said to affect any premises which comprise a dwelling. This means that a single building partitioned into many dwellings (like a block of flats) is included, as is any flat which is above a shop or other non-residential business.
Moreover, any residential premises must be occupied – or, more specifically, it must be letted to one or more people for use as a main residence.
That said, there are a few exceptions. These include student residences, care homes, hostels, hospitals, accommodation and, interestingly, tenancies where the occupier shares accommodation with any member of the landlord’s family.
From the first of October, landlords will be obliged to equip their properties with two sorts of alarms – but this obligation varies slightly according between the two.
Smoke alarms must be installed into each storey of the building where there is a room used as a living accommodation. This means halls, landings, kitchens, bathrooms, bedrooms and living areas. In the case of blocks of flats, this means that a communal alarm can be placed in the hallways of a block of flats, which will cater to the entire floor.
Similarly, carbon monoxide alarms must be installed – but these need only be installed in properties containing a solid-fuel burning appliance. This might mean a wood or coal fireplace or stove, or an Aga oven. This was already a legal requirement of new fuel-combusting installations; the new legislation simply extends this to older ones.
Alarms come in a number of different varieties, but interestingly, the regulations are not specific about what sort of smoke alarm is required. The best protection against fire can be achieved using a hard-wired system, which will ensure that the alarm does not have to rely on batteries – which can be removed by tenants for use in remote controls and the like. The Residential Landlords Association recommend that tamper proof alarms with a life-expectancy of at least ten years should be installed. This will provide the strongest possible protection against fire.
Neither do the regulations stipulate exactly where the alarms should be placed – landlords are instead advised to refer to the guidelines provided by the manufacturer. The most effective smoke alarms are normally placed in a hall or stairway – where smoke from anywhere in the property is likely to circulate.
How will this be checked and enforced?
It is the landlord’s duty to check and ensure that these new regulations have been complied with on the first day of any new tenancy. Tenancies which were entered into before October the first are therefore not covered by the rule.
This provision does not suggest that landlords should not bother worrying about their existing tenancies, but it is certainly good practice to ensure that existing properties are covered also. Government guidelines recommend that the tenant check their alarms at least monthly to ensure that they are working. That said, a landlord may be asked to produce proof that they’ve taken this responsibility seriously and put into place a system which will ensure that their alarms are regularly checked.
In charge of enforcing these new rules is the local authority, who must give 28 days’ notice of any action to be taken if they belief any property to have violated the legislation. This will allow the landlord to make representation, if they wish – this may be necessary in order to show that action has been taken – it may be that a tenant is not allowing the necessary work to be done. The notice must be served with 21 days of them being given reason to believe that the property is in breach.
The maximum penalty for non-compliance is a charge of up to £5,000.