Landlords in England have since October 2015 been required to install carbon monoxide alarms in their residential rented accommodation where a solid fuel solid fuel heating appliance was fitted.
This would include all open fireplaces that were available to be used, that is where the flue was not blocked off.
The new regulations now drafted extend the requirement for these alarms to be fitted where there is any type of fixed combustions appliance, such as gas heaters, cookers and boilers. A Draft Statutory Instrument was laid before Parliament on 11 May 2022. When approved this amendment will come into force on 1 October 2022.
For many years experts have questioned the wisdom of excluding gas appliances from the requirement to have a CO alarm in the room, so this amendment will now rectify this oversight. Landlords now have this lead time to sources and properly install a suitable CO alarm in rooms where a gas appliance is fitted.
The new regulations apply to rental houses and flats and to HMOs. The penalty for none compliance is a fine of up to £5,000. The amendment applies to England currently, but similar requirements are to be introduced in Wales through the Welsh Assembly’s Renting Homes Wales Act.
These amended rules under the Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarm (Amendment) Regulations 2022 include a new management requirement placing an obligation on the person responsible for managing the property to repair or replace a faulty carbon monoxide alarm when a tenant reports this defect. The regulation states:
“Regulation 5 amends regulation 4 of the 2015 Regulations. From the coming into force of these Regulations, relevant landlords of a specified tenancy are required to ensure that, during any period when the premises are occupied under the tenancy, a smoke alarm is equipped on every storey where there is a room used as living accommodation and a carbon monoxide alarm is equipped in any room used as living accommodation which contains a fixed combustion appliance (which is a wider duty to the previous requirement for a carbon monoxide alarm to be equipped in any room which contains a solid fuel-burning combustion appliance) except for gas cookers.
“The amended regulation 4 includes a new requirement to ensure that when a tenant (or a tenant’s nominated representative) reports that an alarm may not be in proper working order is made, and the alarm is found not to be in proper working order, the alarm must be repaired or replaced. New paragraph (3A) provides that the landlord must carry out the new requirements as soon as reasonably practicable.”
What is carbon monoxide (CO)?
This is a highly poisonous gas produced by the incomplete burning of any carbon fuel such as natural gas, liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) and solid fuels such as coal, coke and wood. It is likely to happen when appliances and flues have been incorrectly fitted, when repairs are not carried out correctly or when not regularly serviced by a qualified person.
Carbon monoxide will build up in a room when flues, chimneys or air vents are blocked and can be can become deadly to occupants.
It is especially dangerous because CO cannot be seen, tasted or smelled. It is easy to mistake its effects and symptoms for common ailments: colds, viruses and even a bad hangover. The main symptoms are: Headaches, Dizziness, Nausea, Breathlessness, Collapse, Loss of consciousness.
Warning flags should result when these symptoms only occur when a person is present in the room or home for a period where the appliances exist, and may abate when away from the room. It is also a flag when other household members all suffer the same symptoms.
What do you need to know about CO alarms?
Installing a Carbon Monoxide Detector & Alarm is usually a simple DIY task, with most detectors only requiring a couple of screws. Most battery alarms include long life batteries to minimise maintenance. Mains powered alarms which are better will obviously require expert fitting.
There is a wide range of carbon monoxide detection alarms available from the UK’s leading manufacturers, all Kite Marked and compliant with BS EN 50291. Battery or Mains Powered alarms, with varying features are available including brands such as Aico, FireAngel, Honeywell & Kidde.
It is suggested that landlords follow closely the alarm manufacturer’s instructions which typically say the alarm should be at head height between 1-3 meters away from the appliance.
It is advisable to get a qualified Part P and Gas Safe Engineer to install your smoke and carbon monoxide alarms in your rental properties. If you do install them yourself you should have the Gas Safe engineer to check them when carrying out the annual gas safety checks.
Requirement to ensure the alarms are in working order
The landlord of agent is specifically required to carry out a check to ensure that smoke alarms or carbon monoxide alarms are in proper working order on the day a tenancy begins where it is a new tenancy and with these new regulations the landlord is under an obligation to repair / replace if the tenant reports a defect.
From the landlord / agents’ point of view it is safest to assume an ongoing obligation to ensure that smoke alarms and carbon monoxide alarms installed in their properties are in proper working order at all times because tenants may not always do this. It has been known for tenants to remove batteries from these devices.
It is always best and safest therefore that landlords of rental properties assume this responsibility for the checks when carrying out regular property inspections, and to have them included in the annual gas safety checks carried out by a Gas Safe engineer.
Tenants should also be advised (and written into the tenancy agreement) to test smoke and CO alarms themselves regularly and clean them with a vacuum soft brush attachment to make sure dust particles don’t build up around the sensors.
In some models batteries will need to be changed annually, though most makes now provide alarms with 10 year battery operation. Even mains wired alarms will have a battery back-up. After ten years, it’s probably best to fit a whole new alarm.
Regular inspections should include testing the functioning of all alarms fitted in the property and this process should be fully documented to prove this was done. There is grey area in the rules here when landlords try to place the responsibility to check the alarms are working onto the tenant.
Who must comply with the alarm requirements?
The requirements are imposed on the immediate landlord of the tenant, including when any tenancies are granted through subletting.
In addition, as this is now a mandatory licensing condition, if the property requires a mandatory, additional or selective licence, then it is the responsibility of the licence holder to ensure that suitable alarms are properly fitted in the property, tested and maintained in working order.