This article has been updated to reflect the changes in legislation from 1 October 2022.
As all those responsible for managing property will be only too aware, landlords have many obligations under the laws and regulations applying to the residential property sector in England and Wales, not least relating to the safety of tenants – specifically carbon monoxide detectors.
In England and Wales, all landlords of social and private rentals must ensure that they comply with the latest Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Regulations. After initially coming into force on 1 October 2015, there have been updates and amendments to the regulations.
The new regulations are amendments to the Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarm (England) Regulations 2015, and they extend on some of the regulations that were already in place while ensuring that the rules also apply to social housing providers.
Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarm (Amendment) Regulations 2022
From 1st October 2022, amendments to the Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarm (England) Regulations mean that all relevant landlords must comply with the amended regulations, set out below.
First, landlords must ensure that there is at least one smoke alarm on each storey of the property where a room is being used as ‘living accommodation’. The Government states that the term living accommodation is defined as a room “in which a person spends a significant amount of time”.
This was a legal requirement in the private rented sector since the earlier 2015 regulations, but it now extends to social housing.
Second, landlords must make sure that a carbon monoxide alarm is installed in any room that is being used as living accommodation that also contains a ‘fixed combustion appliance’, but this does not included gas cookers.
Third, landlords must make sure that both smoke alarms and carbon monoxide alarms are in working order or either repaired or replaced as soon as they are found to be faulty or they have been informed that they’re not working.
As before, the requirements are enforced by local authorities. Failure to comply could lead to a remedial notice, which could mean a fine of up to £5,000 if remedial action is not carried out.
Carbon monoxide detectors and smoke alarms save lives
Although CO2 detectors are only a legal requirement in rooms containing solid fuel appliances, landlords should remember that gas appliances such as gas boilers, gas fires, and gas cookers can also emit carbon monoxide and it is, therefore, best practice to make sure that rooms containing gas appliances also have a working carbon monoxide detector.
The obligation is an ongoing one. The landlord must ensure that at the start of each and every tenancy both smoke detectors and carbon monoxide alarms are in working order. The start of a new tenancy as defined in the Regulations includes the renewal of an existing tenancy.
If landlords do not comply with their obligations under the Regulations then the local authority for the property can issue a remedial notice. If the defect is not made good, the landlord can be fined up to £5000.
The rules in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland are slightly different but it remains best practice wherever your property is to ensure that it’s fitted with sufficient, regulatory standard smoke detectors and carbon monoxide alarms to ensure tenant safety.
Who is responsible for expired alarms?
Neither smoke alarms nor carbon monoxide detectors have an indefinite life span and so, at some point, they will need to be replaced.
Most carbon monoxide and smoke alarms expire after 10 years though batteries may run out sooner. Smoke detectors and carbon monoxide alarms that are not wired into the mains will need their batteries replaced on a periodic basis, and even mains-powered alarms will need their backup batteries to be replaced.
The guidelines issued by HM Government alongside the Regulations state that provided the landlord has ensured that the property has the required working smoke detectors and carbon monoxide alarms on the first day of the tenancy, responsibility for checking the alarms regularly then passes to the tenant.
Changing batteries in non-mains powered alarms, therefore, falls to the tenant, although landlords will wish to include checking the alarms on their checklist for each interim property inspection during the tenancy. Checking the alarms as part of interim inspections takes very little time and could save lives.
If a carbon monoxide detector expires, it is the landlord’s responsibility to replace it. Each manufacturer has different guidelines for replacement and expiry periods so it is vital that these are checked for the detectors installed in each property and that at each check an appropriate diary entry is made so that the detectors are replaced before they expire.
It is essential that landlords not only install the necessary alarms, but that they record the installation and the statutory checks at the start of each tenancy. Records need to be kept to show compliance in the event that a query arises relating to whether the alarms were installed and working correctly on the first day of the tenancy.
In this instance, Inventory Base property inventory software provides a detailed record centre for each property that landlords need for peace of mind.
It is essential to add the smoke and carbon monoxide detectors to the inventory issued to the tenant at the start of each new tenancy and to include these on interim inspections.
The Inventory Base software allows you to enter reminders for each property, giving landlords and managing agents the peace of mind that they will never miss the replacement date for a carbon monoxide detector.