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1st October 2022 is a date that should be marked firmly in red on the calendar of every landlord, letting agent and inventory clerk in the UK.

From this date, all rental properties, whether they are rented out by private landlords, housing associations, local authorities or any other body, must be fitted with a carbon monoxide alarm in any room used as living accommodation which has any kind of fixed combustion appliance, including gas boilers. 

New regulations 

Under the Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarm (England) Regulations 2015, private landlords were obliged to install at least one fully functioning smoke alarm on each floor of a residential property where a room is used as living accommodation but the update to regulations now include carbon monoxide alarms.

Under the new regulations updated in July 2022, and as part of the government’s ongoing programme of reform in the residential rental sector, there is a modest change to the requirements concerning smoke alarms. 

One alarm per floor remains sufficient but the requirement has been extended from private rentals to include social rented homes such as those provided by housing associations.

However, the incidences of carbon monoxide poisoning have not been reduced to the levels envisaged when the 2015 regulations were brought into force so a stricter requirement is being introduced. 

The only exceptions to this rule are gas cookers, which have been shown to be responsible for very few cases of carbon monoxide poisoning so are (as for now) out of scope..

The new regulations place this broader obligation squarely on the landlord but inevitably, compliance and enforcement will involve letting agents, whose day-to-day management of a landlord’s property puts them in the front line.

Carbon Monoxide alarms in the property  

Inventory clerks are in a unique position to play both a reactive and a proactive role in ensuring that landlords comply with the regulations. 

Although you  may not have a direct legal responsibility in your capacity as a property reporting professional who carries out property reports and inspections, it is essential you understand what is required and what to do if you discover potential safety breaches.

In the course of a check-in, you should identify every room which falls under the scope of the updated regulations.

If the requisite alarms – carbon monoxide and smoke alarms – are not in place, the landlord must be alerted as quickly as possible because the tenancy cannot and should not begin until this is rectified.

If you are satisfied that every qualifying room does have a smoke or carbon monoxide alarm, you need to verify that it is functioning correctly. Because the regulations are not prescriptive about the type of alarm, some may be mains powered while others are operated by batteries. 

Please refer to Building Regulations as noted by FireAngel – Part 6 of BS 5839, which outlines the code of practice for the design, installation, commissioning and maintenance of fire detection and fire alarm systems and carbon monoxide alarms in domestic properties

Testing of  carbon monoxide alarms 

Whatever the type, virtually all of them are relatively easy to test – watch our video.

They will incorporate a test button which, when pressed, should cause the alarm to sound. If this does not happen then, then you must record the failure in the report and notify the client.

Once the landlord or letting agent has been informed, they must arrange repair or replacement before the tenancy begins. The solution may simply be to replace the batteries, or there might be a more complicated wiring problem to be resolved.

Either way, it must be attended to urgently.

During the tenancy, if the tenant discovers that a battery-powered alarm is not working, it is their responsibility to check and change the batteries if necessary. However, if this does not fix the problem, or if the alarm is mains powered, they should report this to the landlord.

Inventory clerks can play an important part in this, because it is entirely possible that a tenant won’t even think about the condition of the alarms. In contrast, inventory clerks are experienced in detailed assessments of safety matters and you should make it part of your reporting routine to check. 

To help guide you; all Inventory Base templates have a health & safety section to prompt you for information on the alarm, its location and test result

Your findings should form part of any property inspection, whether at check-in, check-out or as part of an interim property visit, and it is good practice to record any malfunction rather than relying on the landlord to pick it up from the report.

Testing alarms and reporting on their condition should therefore become second nature to inventory clerks but there are also potential safety concerns, not just for the tenants but for you as a clerk. 

Safety at the property 

When you enter a property to carry out an inspection, if the alarms do not work, you could be at risk of harm from an undetected leak. It’s therefore important to be able to recognise the signs.

There are a number of indicators to look out for:

  • a flame from the hob which is yellow or orange instead of blue
  • dark soot stains around gas appliances
  • excessive condensation on windows 
  • a pilot light that won’t stay lit 

All these are reasons for concern.

As an inventory clerk, you will spend a significant amount of time in a property so if the property has a leak, you might start to feel some unpleasant physical sensations. These may include: 

  • dizziness
  • nausea
  • breathlessness 
  • headaches

In severe cases, inhalation of carbon monoxide can lead to collapse and even unconsciousness. If you experience any of these symptoms, you should immediately open windows and doors to let in as much fresh air as possible. 

You shouldn’t hesitate to leave the property even if you haven’t been able to complete your inspection. Your safety is paramount.

The property inventory software we provide at Inventory Base makes it easy for clerks to detail any problems or suspicions they have. 

However, always think safety and never not put yourselves at risk because carbon monoxide is extremely dangerous and can rapidly become life-threatening.

Key takeaways 

New regulations for Smoke & Carbon Monoxide Alarms come into effect as of 1st October

It’s therefore more important than ever to ensure that alarms are:

  • listed in all inventory, check in, mid term and check out reports reports under ‘Health & Safety’
  • correctly installed i.e heat sensors for kitchens, carbon monoxide in rooms with a combustion appliance (excluding gas cookers).
  • located to each storey (where applicable)
  • tested for audible tone and results captured and noted 
  • missing, faulty or damaged alarms are reported so that they can be repaired/replaced

Indisputable evidence is key to ensuring the safety of the tenants and property, minimising the risks of non compliance and or fines of up to £5,000 if the landlord fails to comply with council or local authority remedial notices.

Video is the best evidence to ensure compliance and your activity as the inventory provider should the tenancy go to dispute and or court if the landlord is fined.

Talk with your client base as to how your services can protect all parties in the tenancy, make any changes to your reports information and layouts so that safety information is shown at the start of the report and if not already optimised, add Video to your reporting options.