Landlord responsibility for smoke and carbon monoxide detectors
Regulations requiring social and private rented sector landlords to install smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors, location of devices, and exempt landlords.
Overview of fire and carbon monoxide safety risks
Risks to life from fire and smoke and carbon monoxide are well known. 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.
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.
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 aim to reduce the risk of injury or death of occupiers in rented properties who do not benefit from specific existing legislative protection. The regulations cover both tenancies and licences.
Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarm Regulations
The Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarm Regulations impose a legal requirement on private and social landlords of accommodation occupied under a tenancy or license to ensure that there is:
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)
carbon monoxide alarm in any room being used as 'living accommodation' where there is a ‘fixed combustion appliance’, other than a gas cooker. Before 1 October 2022, this requirement only applied to rooms where solid fuel was used.
This requirement has been in force for private rented sector landlords since 1 October 2015. From 1 October 2022, it is extended to social landlords (including Private registered providers of social housing (PRPSH) and local authorities).
'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.
A ‘fixed combustion appliance’ is defined in guidance as including fixed apparatus where fuel of any type (such as gas, oil, coal, wood) is burned to generate heat. This includes gas or oil boilers, and log-burning stoves.
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 question and answer booklet has advice for landlords and tenants on the regulations.
Type and location of alarms
The regulations do not specify the type of alarm to be used. 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, and from 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.
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.
Ongoing responsibility for alarms
Where a property is occupied under a tenancy or licence (regardless of start date) landlords must ensure that an alarm is in proper working order when it is first installed.
A landlord must check that the alarms in the property are working properly at the start of a new tenancy or licence. A new tenancy (or licence) does not include a renewal, or a statutory periodic tenancy arising when a fixed term ends.
The tenant or licensee is responsible for testing the alarm(s) during the tenancy/licence and should contact the landlord if an alarm stops working to arrange for new batteries or a replacement alarm.
Landlords must ensure that the alarm is repaired or replaced as soon as reasonably practicable after a report that an alarm is faulty.
This requirement also applies to social landlords (including local authorities) from 1 October 2022.
Landlords exempt from the requirement to install alarms
The requirements under the Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarm Regulations do not apply to:
HMO landlords (as the HMO licence imposes an obligation to install safety equipment.)
tenancies granted for a fixed-term of seven years or more, known as long leases
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 carbon monoxide poisoning and fire. This applies to hostels, refuges, student halls, hospitals and care homes.
Enforcement of fire and carbon monoxide alarms requirements
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, or has not taken all reasonable steps to comply. The notice contains 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.
A landlord may appeal to the first-tier Tribunal against the imposition or amount of a penalty.
A PRPSH landlord who is aware that they are non-compliant with the regulations is expected to self-refer to the Regulator of Social Housing.
A local authority is unable to take enforcement action against itself as a landlord but is still subject to these requirements. A local authority who has not complied with the regulations could be subject to judicial review.
Last updated: 27 September 2022