Smoke alarms and carbon monoxide alarms are important safety features in rental properties. They are also a legal requirement. However some new rules will be introduced in England* this October which will change landlords’ responsibilities for this equipment.
Here’s a useful heads up for landlords, agents and tenants on the new rules applying to smoke alarms and carbon monoxide alarms.
As most landlords and agents will know, it has been a legal requirement for landlords to provide smoke alarms and carbon monoxide alarms in rental property for some years. But some recent tweaks in the law clarify how these laws should be followed. Importantly they place greater responsibility on the landlord to ensure they are working.
The new rules on smoke and CO2 alarms
The Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarm (Amendment) Regulations 2022 will come into force as from 1 October 2022. From this date landlords must:
* Ensure that at least one smoke alarm is fitted on each storey of their property where there is a room used as living accommodation. (This has been a legal requirement since 2015 anyway.)
* Ensure that a carbon monoxide alarm is fitted in any room used as living accommodation which contains a fixed combustion appliance. For example a gas fire or boiler or a fireplace that burns wood or coal. (It excludes gas cookers.).
Smoke alarms and carbon monoxide alarms can be either battery operated or hard wired. They can be fixed in any location on each storey. But corridors and landings are the usual choice for smoke alarms and close by the appliance for carbon monoxide alarms.
* Ensure that smoke alarms and carbon monoxide alarms are repaired or replaced once informed and found that they are faulty.
This is where the new law introduces an important change. Under the old rules a landlord merely had to ensure that working alarms were installed at the start of a new tenancy. It was considered acceptable to expect tenants to test the alarms during their tenancy and, for example, fit new batteries to these devices when needed.
Under the new rules landlords are required to ensure smoke alarms and carbon monoxide alarms are repaired or replaced once they are told about it. This could effectively mean that landlords are required to replace alarm batteries as and when needed, something which they could have expected tenants to do before. As well as replace or repair these devices immediately if some other fault is found.
Important points to consider
While many tenants will no doubt continue to be quite willing to replace batteries themselves landlords (and agents) should be aware that the new rules mean landlords must do this if the tenant is not willing or does not.
Landlords and agents might be wise to remind tenants of the importance of checking their smoke and carbon monoxide alarms regularly and reporting any problems immediately. They should be provided with instruction manuals for these products too.
Landlords and agents might consider checking alarms in their properties prior to 1 October to ensure they are both working and serviceable in the long term.
Landlords who provide alarms which require regular battery replacement – which are perfectly acceptable under both old and new rules – might consider making changes which will make it easier to abide by the new rules. For example, fitting alarms which are of the ten year lifetime/sealed for life battery type, or fitting hard wired alarms if they are carrying out refurbishment or rewiring work anyway.
The new rules, as previously, can be enforced by local authorities. They can impose a fine of up to £5,000 where a landlord fails to comply when they are issued with a remedial notice.
More information is available from the official Government site here: Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarm (Amendment) Regulations 2022: guidance for landlords and tenants - GOV.UK
* All homes must have appropriate alarms in Scotland, not just rentals. Different rules apply in Wales.