You may well be aware of the Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarm (England) Regulations 2015 which finally made it illegal to let a property without smoke alarms as of 1st October 2015.
In our opinion, this was long overdue as we had been giving advice to landlords for many years to ensure the safety of their tenants by fitting smoke alarms in their properties – most landlords couldn’t believe it wasn’t the law to do so before then.
The legislation itself, places a large burden of responsibility on landlords and their letting agents in order to comply fully.
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The legislation requires there to be a smoke alarm fitted on each story in a property that contains a habitable room (living room, bedroom etc.). This, in isolation, is straightforward enough, however – the requirement extends to ensuring that the smoke alarms are working on the day the tenancy starts.
The requirements don’t specifically state what type of alarm should be fitted (e.g., mains-wired or battery), but keep in mind that separate legislation may apply to your property. For example, if the property has been built since 1991, building regulations will require mains-wired smoke alarms be fitted. If your property has a loft conversion, the same may also apply and if the property is an HMO requiring a mandatory licence this will have placed its own specific requirements over the types of alarm to be fitted and their locations.
The legislation also does not specify where the alarms should be fitted (e.g., on a wall or ceiling). Separate recommendations have been issued by the government over this and can be found here. Best practice is to follow the manufacturer’s guidelines and always fit on the ceiling, rather than a wall.
Carbon Monoxide Detectors
These regulations also make it compulsory for there to be a working carbon monoxide detector fitted in any room in the property that contains a ‘solid fuel-burning appliance’.
This specific description has led to many questions being asked by landlords as to what this would specifically apply to. Most commonly, this will include things like log-burners, but the description will also cover any working fireplace in a property. To be safe we advise either:
- Blocking the chimney/flue and removing any of the associated apparatus that would enable the fireplace to be used (e.g., the grate). We would also then suggest confirming in the tenancy agreement that the fireplace is not to be used.
- Or adding carbon monoxide detectors to these rooms also, even if you don’t expect the fireplaces to be used. We don’t think you can be too careful when it comes to the safety and wellbeing of your tenants.
The other question that we always get in relation to carbon monoxide detectors is over the need for them in a room with a gas appliance. As you will note, these regulations do not specifically require there to be one, for example, in the kitchen if you have a gas hob, or in a room with a gas boiler or gas fire. Again, we don’t think you can be too careful here either and would recommend fitting a CO detector in these rooms also. Secondary legislation may also require a CO detector to be fitted, for example, gas-safe regulations will require a CO detector to be fitted in any bedroom containing a boiler or other gas appliance.
Again, when fitting, follow the manufacturers guidelines.
To find out more about Gas & Carbon Monoxide regulations, click here.
The main part of the legislation, aside from ensuring the correct number and types of detectors are fitted, is to ensure that they are working on the day that the tenancy starts. Once this has been done it can then be the tenant’s responsibility to test at regular intervals during the tenancy and to notify you if any detector is not working. If they are battery operated then it will be the tenant’s responsibility to replace, but if mains-wired it would be the landlord’s responsibility to fix.
What Constitutes Testing?
Many people believe that pressing the test button to see that the alarm sounds is sufficient. However, pressing the button is only testing that the alarm siren and the battery work – it’s not testing the smoke or CO sensor which is the vital part that needs to be checked. Again, the legislation is non-specific here as to exactly what to do to test the detector. We wouldn’t advise taking any risks here either and recommend testing with synthesised smoke and CO so that you can be certain they are fully working.
We work with several service providers that help us in this regard to make sure this is done – our inventory clerks test the Smoke and CO detectors with synthesised Smoke & CO as part of our ‘Safe & Legal’ checks at the start of a tenancy. Our main gas contractor will also conduct an audible test when completing a Landlord Gas Safety Inspection and we also do the same when conducting our routine property visits during the tenancy. This is above and beyond the requirements of the legislation – but again, we don’t think you can be overcautious in ensuring the safety of your tenants.
If you have any questions relating to this or any other lettings-related matters, please go to our contact form and we will be happy to help.