A change has been made to the Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarm (England) Regulations. It is expected that the regulations, originally enforced in 2015, will be amended from 1 October 2022 and will apply to both private and social rental properties.
The following requirements will apply to all landlords:
1. Ensure at least one smoke alarm is equipped on each storey of their homes where there is a room used as living accommodation. Since 2015, this has been a legal requirement in the private rented sector.
2. Ensure a carbon monoxide alarm is equipped in any room used as living accommodation which contains a fixed combustion appliance (excluding gas cookers).
3. Ensure smoke alarms and carbon monoxide alarms are repaired or replaced once informed and found that they are faulty.
The requirements are enforced by local authorities who can impose a fine of up to £5,000 if a landlord fails to comply with a remedial notice.
What type of smoke alarm is required?
It is recommended that landlords select smoke alarms based on the needs of their buildings and tenants and that those alarms comply with British Standards BS 5839-6. In the case of battery-powered alarms, it is preferable to select alarms with ‘sealed for life’ batteries instead of alarms with replaceable batteries.
What type of carbon monoxide alarm is required?
There is no specification in the regulations regarding the type of alarms that should be installed, such as mains-powered alarms, hard-wired alarms, or battery-powered alarms.
Carbon monoxide alarms should be selected by landlords based on the needs of their building and their tenants and must conform to British Standards BS 50291.
Where should smoke and carbon monoxide alarms be located?
On every floor used for living accommodation, a smoke alarm should be installed. Although the regulations do not specify exactly where they should be installed, they are usually mounted on the ceiling in a circulation area, such as a hall or a landing.
The only requirement for carbon monoxide alarms is that they be installed in every room that contains a fixed combustion appliance (excluding gas cookers).
It is recommended that carbon monoxide alarms be installed at head height, either on a wall or shelf, approximately one to three metres from potential sources of carbon monoxide. Both smoke alarms and carbon monoxide alarms should be installed according to the manufacturer’s instructions.What is a fixed combustion appliance?
All rooms containing fixed combustion appliances, other than gas cookers, must be equipped with carbon monoxide alarms. The term refers to an apparatus in which fuel of any type is burned in order to generate heat.
In general, these appliances are powered by gas, oil, coal, wood, etc., such as gas or oil boilers, or log-burning stoves. The use of a non-functioning decorative fireplace would not be considered a fixed combustion appliance.
Does replacing a battery count as a repair? Who is responsible for changing the batteries?
The landlord is responsible for repairing or replacing any faulty alarms. Tenants are advised to replace the batteries in their alarms if they find that they are not functioning during the tenancy.
Upon replacing the batteries, if the alarm still does not work, or if tenants are unable to replace the batteries themselves, tenants should notify their landlord.
How should a tenant test their alarms to check they are in working order?
Smoke alarms and carbon monoxide alarms can be tested by tenants without requiring any specialized skills or knowledge. To ensure residents understand how, and how often, to test their smoke alarms and ensure they are working properly, landlords should consider providing them with a demonstration and/or instructions.
In order to support regular testing of alarms, landlords should follow the manufacturer’s instructions for testing alarms and consider sharing these instructions with tenants.
What tenancies do the regulations apply to?
Private landlords and registered providers of social housing in England are subject to the regulations. Tenancies listed below are excluded:
- shared accommodation with a landlord or landlord’s family
- long leases
- student halls of residence
- hotels and refuges
- care homes
- hospitals and hospices
- low-cost ownership homes
- other accommodation relating to health care provision
The regulations will not apply if the occupant shares the accommodation with the private landlord or the private landlord’s family. Owner-occupiers and owner-occupiers in shared-ownership homes are not subject to the regulations.
How are the alarm regulations enforced?
The regulations will be enforced by local housing authorities. If landlords are made aware that they are not compliant, they should take action to install or repair the alarms as soon as possible.
The local housing authority may serve a remedial notice to landlords found in breach of the regulations. Failure to comply with each remedial notice can lead to a fine of up to £5,000 per breach, rather than per landlord or property.
How can landlords prove compliance?
Landlords should keep a record of when alarms are installed, tested and repaired. If queried, the local housing authority will decide whether the evidence proves that the landlord met the requirements.
Carrying out an inventory on the first day of the tenancy is a good way to keep a record. The landlord – or the inventory clerk – can note that alarms have been tested and are working, then the tenant can sign the inventory to confirm it’s correct.