Legal Update – New Regulations Re Smoke and CO Alarms
By Tessa Shepperson
New smoke alarm installation regulations are scheduled to come into force on 1 October requiring all landlords to instal smoke alarms in their properties by 1 October.
Note that these regulations are currently being held up in the House of Lords, so it is possible that they may not be passed in time. However they are included in this article as they could still be passed on time, and eventually will be passed in some form, in which case it is important that you know about them and take the necessary action in time.
In advance of approval of the new regulations by Parliament, the Government has issued (having noticed that 1 October is not far off) a short guide which you can find here.
EVERY landlord must read this, but here is a short summary just to help you on your way.
What do you need to do?
- You need to instal a working smoke alarm on every storey of your property being used for ‘living accommodation’ and
- Instal a carbon monoxide alarm in any room used as living accommodation where solid fuel is used.
Every landlord will need to have this done by I October for all existing tenancies, and for all new tenancies starting after that date. Note:
There is no grace period for smoke alarm installation after 1 October
So even though we STILL don’t know if the regs will come into force, you should start dealing with this NOW.
NB These regulations only apply in
A few points on the requirements:
- landlords are responsible for ensuring that the alarms are working at the start of the tenancy. Tenants are responsible for looking after them during the tenancy.
- There must be a smoke alarm on every ‘storey’ used for residential accommodation. We are told that mezzanines don’t count
- We are told that ‘living accommodation’ includes bathrooms and toilets.
- However, we are not told whether it also includes areas which are just used for storage (like some basements or lofts). It would perhaps be prudent to instal them there as well at the same time – just in case.
- It is up to the landlord to decide whether their alarms should be hardwired or battery powered and where in the room they go
- ‘Solid fuel’ means coal or wood, not gas or oil. Although carbon monoxide alarms are recommended for rooms with gas or oil heating, they are not compulsory.
The regulations do not apply to
- Live in landlords (ie people taking in lodgers)
- Social landlords
- HMO landlords (but only because they are subject to similar rules under the HMO regs)
- Landlords of long leases (which means leases with a term of 7 years or more) – although if the owner of the long lease rents it out, the regs will apply to him
- etc (there is a schedule here)
This will be by Local Authorities. The procedure appears to be as follows:
- If a landlord is in breach, the Local Authority will issue a remedial notice requiring the landlord to fit the alarms within 28 days
- The landlord must take all reasonable steps to comply, but the regulations say this does not include legal proceedings – presumably this means that landlords will not be expected to apply for an injunction or evict tenants who won’t let them in to do the installation
- If the landlord fails to fit the alarms (and have not taken all reasonable steps) the Local Authority can (subject to the tenant granting them access) arrange for this to be done and serve a penalty notice on the landlord for a sum of up to £5,000*
- If the landlord thinks this is unfair he can ask for the notice to be reviewed and then (if it is not withdrawn) appeal to (what is colloquially known as) the Residential Property Tribunal
* This rather looks as if the Local Authority is going to be expected to get the work done itself if the landlord doesn’t. I can’t see anything about claiming their costs back from the landlord for doing this work to his property, but no doubt this is covered somewhere.
These regulations are not law yet, but in view of the shortness of time (October is just weeks away) and the fact that there is no grace period, landlords need to get a move on. (Assuming of course that the legislation makes it through the House of Lords)
These alarms need to be installed in ALL their properties, including the ones which have been tenanted for years.
- If you want to take a look at the draft regulations they are here.
- The government guidance document is here..
Smoke alarm supply and installation companies are in for a profitable period …
And finally, the good news
A certain amount of free alarms are available from local fire and rescue services. You can find out how to get them here.