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In 2021, the Scottish Government developed new legislation around interlinked smoke alarms in properties throughout Scotland. However, the roll-out for the legislation, originally introduced in 2019 following the Grenfell disaster, and the implementation of the new Scottish regulations regarding smoke and carbon monoxide alarms had been delayed until 2022 due to COVID-19.

In this updated blog for 2023, we’ll take a look at the legislation and regulations, discuss the updates since the pandemic, and ask if the rest of the UK followed Scotland’s example.

What is this new smoke alarms Scotland legislation?

The new legislation in Scotland, which was due to come into effect in February 2021, required every home owned or rented in Scotland to be fitted with a working smoke alarm.

These must be fitted in a main living space and interlinked with other areas of the property, so residents can be alerted of a fire hazard no matter where they are in their homes. Additionally, smoke alarms should be implemented into the house wiring for a more reliable safety feature. 

However, there had been obstacles with the roll-out, with complaints that there has been a lack of advance warning for qualified tradesmen to carry out fitting throughout Scotland.

Who is eligible for free smoke alarms in Scotland?

Scotland had also financially provided for the implementation of this legislation by setting aside millions for the provision of smoke alarms in social housing.

The Scottish Government also provided a large sum for the use of its Fire and Rescue Service, in order to ensure that the service can visit properties and advise and ensure that vulnerable tenants get the help they need with the installation of alarms. 

Funding would be a big consideration of the decision if the rest of the UK were to follow Scotland’s example, as each area of the country has its own budgets to manage, and England has the higher population density of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. 

Smoke Alarms Scotland 2023 Update

The new law mandating interlinked smoke alarms in every home across Scotland was officially enacted in 2022.

Despite concerns raised by opposition parties regarding adequate publicity, which therefore heralded a call for a delay in the implementation of the scheme, the Scottish government stood firm at the time, assuring residents that they would not face penalties if they required additional time to install the interlinked smoke alarms.

Responding to the myriad challenges, Scottish ministers allocated additional funds to support vulnerable households in installing smoke alarms, aiming to address any potential obstacles faced by a number of households having to comply with the new legislation.

Scotland now leads as the first UK nation to legally enforce the installation of interlinked smoke alarms in all homes.

While concerns had initially been expressed regarding the availability of interlinked alarms and the progress of households in undertaking the required installations, it’s important to highlight that new build and privately rented homes have been subject to this requirement for over a decade.

The new legislation extended the legal obligation to owner-occupied homes and those in the social rented sector.

Councils now have to monitor the compliance of homes to ensure that interlinked smoke alarms are adopted wholesale, further enhancing fire safety measures across the country.

At the time the new legislation was introduced, new stand-alone smoke alarms or heat alarms no longer complied. New battery alarms had to be sealed units so that batteries couldn’t be replaced. Subsequently, when the alarm reaches 10 years, the end of its “useful life”, the whole unit will need to be replaced.

The new alarms must also meet certain standards, as follows:

  • Smoke alarms (BS EN14604:2005)
  • Carbon monoxide detectors (British Kitemark EN50291-1)
  • Heat alarms (BS 5446-2:2003)

What about the rest of the UK?

The question had long been asked, would the rest of the UK follow Scotland’s lead? Each area of the UK currently has its own legislation regarding fire and carbon monoxide alarm regulations.

With the difference between regions, it makes it essential to seek out independent expert advice, preferably from your local fire service who can advise you how to fully protect your tenants and your property, while complying with your local fire regulations. 

For example, from October 2015 the law in England required private landlords with rental properties to fit one smoke alarm on each storey of their premises. Landlords were also required to fit a carbon monoxide detector in any room near a solid fuel-burning appliance.

Then, from the 1st of October 2022, the Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarm (Amendment) Regulations 2022 came into force in England and Wales. From that date, all relevant landlords must:

  1. Ensure at least one smoke alarm is equipped on each storey of their homes where there is a room used as living accommodation. This has been a legal requirement in the private rented sector since 2015.
  2. Ensure a carbon monoxide alarm is equipped in any room used as living accommodation which contains a fixed combustion appliance (excluding gas cookers).
  3. Ensure smoke alarms and carbon monoxide alarms are repaired or replaced once informed and found that they are faulty.

If a landlord fails to comply with a remedial notice, local authorities can impose a fine of up to £5,000.

Unfortunately, it is a sad statistic that of the many house fires occurring in England, nearly 20% had alarms installed but not working. Therefore, using a property inspection app will make the responsibility of ensuring your property, and your tenants, are safe with installed and working smoke alarms.