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Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarm Regulations for Landlords (England 2023)

16th October 2023

The Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarm Regulations (England) are changing. The restrictions, which were first implemented in 2015, were revised on October 1, 2022, and now extend to both private and social renting residences.

What are the latest smoke and carbon monoxide alarm regulations?

Private and social rentals are required to have a minimum of one functioning smoke alarm on each story where there is an unit utilised as dwelling accommodation beginning October 1, 2022. From the first regulations in 2015, this has become a legal obligation for private rentals, but it is now coming to social housing as well.

Any space used as residential accommodation that contains a fixed burning device must have a carbon monoxide alarm. This category includes any appliance that uses fuel for producing heat, but does not include gas cookers.

The most significant change for landlords is that, once notified by their tenant, they will be liable for the repair or substitution of any smoke and carbon monoxide alarms. Previously, landlords were responsible for setting up and testing the alarm at the beginning of the tenancy, however it is now the tenant’s primary obligation to fix or replace it throughout the tenancy.

Which type of alarm is required to comply with the smoke and carbon monoxide rules?

The regulations do not specify the type of alarm for either smoke or carbon monoxide alarms.

The landlord must make the decision depending on the requirements of their building and those who rent. Mains powered (hard wired) or battery powered alarms are acceptable as long as they comply with British Standards BS 5839-6 (smoke alarms) and BS 50291 (carbon monoxide alarms).

When it comes to battery-powered alarms, alarms with ‘sealed for life’ batteries are preferable than alarms with removable batteries. Heat detectors are not intended to replace smoke alarms.

When selecting the appropriate alarm, landlords should consider their tenants’ specific situations. If inhabitants are deaf or hard of hearing, alarms that alert through vibration or flashing lights (rather than sound) might be preferable.

Where should smoke and carbon monoxide detectors be installed?

Each floor that is used as residential space should have at least one smoke alarm installed. The guidelines do not specify where they should be installed or placed, however they are typically mounted to the ceiling in a circulation zone, such as the hallway or stairway.

There are no requirements for carbon monoxide alarms other than that they must be set up in any room utilised as living accommodation that has a fixed burning appliance (except gas ovens).

Carbon monoxide alarms should be installed at head height on the wall or shelves, roughly 1-3 metres away from a possible carbon monoxide source. Smoke and carbon monoxide alarms should be installed according to the instructions provided by the manufacturer.

What types of tenancies are covered by the regulations?

The restrictions apply to all tenancies in England provided by private landlords or registered social housing providers. The following tenancies are excluded:

  • shared housing with a landlord or the landlord’s family
  • long-term leases
  • residential halls for students
  • hotels and refugee camps
  • nursing homes
  • hospices and hospitals
  • low-cost home ownership
  • additional accommodations related to health-care delivery

What are Wales’s smoke and carbon monoxide alarm regulations?

These regulations do not apply to Welsh houses, although the Renting Homes (Wales) Act 2016 include carbon monoxide alarm provisions.

In Wales, if you are a landlord with a rental property you must ensure that all your properties are fit for human habitation, a carbon monoxide alarm must be installed in each room with a solid fuel-burning equipment, and a smoke alarm must be installed on each storey. This law went into effect on December 1, 2022. More information about the Renting Homes (Wales) Act can be found here.

What are landlords accountable for in terms of smoke and carbon monoxide alarms?

Landlords have responsibility for guaranteeing the proper alarms are placed and operational. Landlords are required to test the alarm on the first day of the tenancy and fix or replace any broken alarms reported by the tenant during the tenure.

Tenants must report any problems with smoke or carbon monoxide alarms, but landlords should check them during mid-term inspections or other frequent visits. Tenants should replace the batteries in battery-powered alarms. If the alarm continues to fail or the tenant is unable to change the batteries, they should notify the landlord.

 

How can landlords demonstrate compliance?

Landlords should keep track of when their tenants’ alarms are installed, checked, and maintained. If the evidence is challenged, the local housing authority will evaluate whether the landlord meets the standards.

Performing an inventory on the first day of the tenancy is a smart approach to keep track of things. The landlord – or the person handling the inventory – can indicate that the alarms have been tested and are operational, after which the tenant may sign the inventory to certify its accuracy.

With the ever-changing legislation in the property industry, we understand it can be challenging to keep up with the Act, its Regulations, Welsh Government guidelines, British Standards, and more. Seraph offers bespoke property management with our dedicated compliance team, we  are here to help you get through this and be compliant under every regulation. Contact a member of our team for more information.