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New Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Regulations set off alarm bells

View profile for Michael Collins
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As of 1 October 2015, it is compulsory for all private residential landlords to ensure that their rented properties are fitted with smoke alarms and, where appropriate, carbon monoxide detectors.  If landlords fail to comply, they risk facing a fine of up to £5,000.

The Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarm (England) Regulations 2015 came into force on 1 October and aim to reduce the risk of injury or death caused by smoke or carbon monoxide in the private rented sector.  According to the government, nearly 40% of fire related deaths occur in properties without a working smoke alarm, and each year there are around 40 deaths from accidental carbon monoxide poisoning in England and Wales.

What do the Regulations say?

The Regulations make it compulsory for a landlord of a “specified tenancy” of residential premises in England to ensure that:

  • a smoke alarm is installed on every storey of their rental properties which is used as living accommodation; and
  • a carbon monoxide alarm is installed in any room containing a solid fuel-burning combustion appliance (for example, a coal fire or a wood burning stove).

The landlord also has to ensure that any such alarm is in proper working order at the start of each new tenancy.  Thereafter, it is the tenant’s responsibility to test the alarms and check that they are in working order.

What types of tenancies do the Regulations apply to?

The Regulations apply to any tenancy, lease or licence of residential premises in England that gives somebody the right to occupy all or part of the premises as their only or main residence in return for rent.

Some types of tenancies are exempted and are not therefore affected by the Regulations.  For example:

  • long leases (of 21 years or more);
  • tenancies granted for a term of 7 years or more which do not include an option to terminate before the 7 years are up;
  • tenancies for accommodation in student halls of residence; or
  • tenancies for accommodation in care homes, hospitals, or hospices, etc.

What happens if a landlord does not comply?

If a local housing authority has reasonable grounds to believe a landlord has not met the requirements of the Regulations, it must serve a remedial notice, requiring the landlord to fit and/or test the alarms within 28 days.

If the landlord fails to take remedial action within the specified period, the housing authority must arrange for someone to carry out remedial action, provided that the occupier consents.  The housing authority may also require the landlord to pay a penalty charge, to be determined by the authority (up to a £5,000 maximum fine).

Comment

There has been very little publicity surrounding these new Regulations, although they are already in force, and have been a point of concern in the House of Lords.

The Regulations stipulate that smoke alarms need to be installed in all rented properties, but that carbon monoxide detectors need only be installed in properties containing “solid fuel burning combustion appliances”.  There is no specific mention of gas appliances, which is surprising, but presumably because gas burning appliances are already covered by the annual gas safety check, which is a requirement under separate legislation.  However, in practice, it seems that letting agents are nevertheless installing carbon monoxide detectors in rented properties.

The penalty for non-compliance is severe compared with the cost of compliance, so landlords should ensure that they meet the requirements.

This article was written by Michael Collins, Partner, with assistance from Sona Voreux, trainee solicitor.

This guide is for general information and interest only and should not be relied upon as providing specific legal advice. If you require any further information about the issues raised in this article please contact the author or call 0207 404 0606 and ask to speak to your usual Goodman Derrick contact.