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Smoke and carbon monoxide

This content applies to England

The requirement for private sector landlords to install smoke alarms and/or carbon monoxide detectors.

Introduction

Risks to life from fire and carbon monoxide are well known and building regulations require that all properties built on or after 1 June 1992 have a hard-wired smoke alarm installed on at least every floor, and a carbon monoxide detector in all properties where a solid fuel heating appliance has been installed since 1 October 2010.[1]

In addition, gas safety regulations oblige landlords to maintain and inspect gas appliances, and provide a copy of the inspection to tenants. A gas safety inspection could reveal appliances that carry a risk of carbon monoxide poisoning.

See the sections Gas safety and Fire safety for more information.

All hazards to health can be assessed by local authorities under the Housing Health and Safety Rating System.

The Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarm Regulations 2015 aim to reduce the risk of injury or death of occupiers in private rented sector properties who do not benefit from specific existing legislative protection.

Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarm Regulations 2015

Where a private rented sector property is occupied under a tenancy or licence[2] (regardless of start date), the landlord must, by 1 October 2015, ensure that there is a:[3]

  • smoke alarm on each storey of a property which contains a room being used, wholly or partly, as 'living accommodation' (a mezzanine floor would not be considered a storey[4])
  • carbon monoxide alarm in any room being used as 'living accommodation' in which solid fuel is used.

'Living accommodation' includes bathrooms and toilets. A 'room' for the purpose of the regulations relating to carbon monoxide detectors includes a hall and a landing.

Solid fuel means coal or wood, but not gas or oil. Therefore, a carbon monoxide alarm is not compulsory for a room with gas or oil heating. However, if a gas appliance is found to be dangerous during the annual inspection required under the gas safety regulations, this must be reported to the landlord and tenant, and its disconnection arranged.

The government has published a question and answer booklet to advise private sector landlords and tenants on the regulations.

Type and location of alarms

The regulations do not specify the type of alarm to be used, but government guidance in the question and answer booklet suggests that landlords should make an informed decision and choose the best alarms for their properties and tenants. A landlord may choose whether to use a hard-wired or battery-powered model. Landlords may decide where to place an alarm within the property, but should follow the guidance given by the manufacturer of the product chosen. In general, a smoke alarm should be fitted to the ceiling in a position where air circulates, such as a hall or a landing. Carbon monoxide detectors should be placed at head height, on a wall or shelf, approximately one to three metres away from a potential source of the gas.

A heat detector is not a replacement for a smoke alarm.

Advice on installation of alarms may be available from a local fire service, or there is information about fire safety on Gov.uk

Specialist alarms for deaf and hard of hearing occupiers

Landlords have a duty under the Equality Act 2010 to provide 'auxiliary aids' on request in certain circumstances to avoid discriminating against a disabled person in their enjoyment of premises. A specialist smoke or carbon monoxide alarm that alerts by vibration or flashing light may be classed as an auxiliary aid. For more information, see the page Discrimination in relation to premises

Where a landlord does not agree to provide a specialist alarm, an occupier can contact their local fire and rescue service who may be under a duty to assist them, or their local social services sensory team.

On-going responsibility for alarms

Landlords must ensure that an alarm is in proper working order when it is first installed, or on 1 October 2015 if it was installed prior to this date. Thereafter the tenant or licensee is responsible for testing the alarm(s). The government's Q&A booklet advises that a tenant should contact the landlord if an alarm stops working to arrange for new batteries or a replacement alarm.

At the start of a new tenancy or licence a landlord must check that the alarms in the property are working properly - a new tenancy (or licence) does not include a renewal, or a statutory periodic tenancy arising when a fixed term ends.[5]

Exempt landlords

The requirements do not apply to:

  • resident landlords
  • social landlords
  • HMO landlords (the HMO licence imposes an obligation to install safety equipment. See the page HMO licensing for details)
  • tenancies granted for a fixed-term of seven years or more
  • student halls of residence (but Government approved codes of practice stipulate a minimum standard of smoke alarm installation and regular testing)
  • hostels and refuges
  • care homes,hospitals and other healthcare-related accommodation.

Some occupiers of accommodation where the landlord is exempt from the Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarm Regulations already benefit from protection against the risk of fire. This applies to hostels, refuges, student halls, hospitals and care homes.[6]

Enforcement

A local housing authority must serve a remedial notice where it has reason to believe that a landlord has not complied with the Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarm (England) Regulations 2015, or has not taken all reasonable steps to comply. The notice will contain conditions that the landlord must meet.

If a landlord fails to comply with the terms of the notice within 28 days, the authority must take action to ensure that tenants are protected by working alarms. It may also impose a penalty charge on the landlord.[7]

A landlord may appeal to the first-tier Tribunal against the imposition or amount of a penalty.[8]

[1] Sch 1 Building Regulations 2010 SI 2010/2214 Part A (Structure) Parts B1 and J1.

[2] reg 2 Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarm (England) Regulations 2015 SI 2015/1693; s.150(10) Energy Act 2013.

[3] reg 4 Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarm (England) Regulations 2015 SI 2015/1693.

[4] para 14, Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarm (England) Regulations 2015, Q&A booklet for the Private Rented Sector - landlords and tenants, DCLG, Sept 2015.

[5] reg 4(4) Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarm (England) Regulations 2015 SI 2015/1693.

[6] under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 SI 2005/1541.

[7] reg 8 Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarm (England) Regulations 2015 SI 2015/1693

[8] reg 11 Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarm (England) Regulations 2015 SI 2015/1693.

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