Residential Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarm (England) Regulations 2015

Smoke and carbon monoxide detectors

13 January 2016

Tom Entwistle gets up to speed with the latest informaton on smoke and carbon monoxide detectors for UK landords

As of 1 October 2015, landlords in England were required by law to have fitted smoke detectors (alarms) on each storey of a rental property. In rooms where solid fuel appliances are installed, carbon monoxide (CO) detectors are also required. Carbon monoxide detectors are not required by law for gas appliances, although landlords are being encouraged to provide them where gas is involved as good safety practice.

If tenants refuse access for alarm fitting or testing, landlords should write to the tenants, with a copy to the local authority, to explain that it is a legal requirement to install the alarms and that it is for tenants' own safety.

The regulations do not stipulate which type of alarms (such as hard-wired or battery-powered) should be installed. Landlords should make an informed decision and choose the best alarms for their properties and tenants, but it is recommended that 10-year guarantee lithium battery alarms, or hard-wired alarms are installed in pre-1 June 1992 properties. 

Rather confusingly, in England, carbon monoxide alarms are only required in rooms containing a solid fuel burning appliance (i.e. rooms with an open fire, log burning stove, etc.), however, as gas appliances can emit carbon monoxide DCLG has said:

‘we would expect and encourage reputable landlords to ensure that working carbon monoxide alarms are installed in rooms with these.’

The regulations will apply to any tenancy, lease or licence (not lodgers living with a landlord and family) of residential premises in England, that gives someone the right to occupy all or part of the premises as their only or main residence, in return for rent. There are some exemptions, such as for long leaseholds and social housing landlords.

Landlords and/or their managing agents should ensure that they have documentary evidence signed by tenants that the alarms are tested and in working order on the first day of tenancy.

Failure to comply with these regulations would mean the local housing authority concerned can levy a civil penalty charge on the landlord of up to £5,000, but there is a right of appeal.

Landlords and managing agents are encouraged to ensure tenants’ safety and provide documentary evidence of this by carrying out, between every tenancy, basic risk assessments covering fire, gas, electrical, legionella and general safety checks in and outside the property.

Regulations vary throughout the UK and there is some overlap, so here is a brief summary:

The 2015 regulations do not apply in Wales, but it is expected that similar rules will soon apply. Currently properties in Wales built since 1992 must be fitted with mains-powered, inter-linked smoke detectors/alarms, but landlords are advised to provide at least battery-operated alarms in older properties. There is also a legal requirement for an HMO to have hard-wired alarms fitted.

In England and Wales there is also a duty under the Building Regulations, when a solid fuel heating system is installed, such as an open fire or a wood burning stove, to have CO alarms. The authority for this is the DCLG Part J of the Building Regulations for England and Wales 2010.

The mandatory fitting of CO alarms in private rented property became law in Scotland on 14 May 2014 under the Housing Scotland Act 2014. Over and above existing gas safety regulations, the Act prescribes that there must be:

‘satisfactory provision for giving warning if carbon monoxide is present in a concentration hazardous to health’. 

This means that in Scotland it is now mandatory for private landlords to install CO detectors in every space containing a fixed combustion appliance (excluding appliances used solely for cooking) and where a flue passes through high-risk accommodation, such as a bedroom or main living room.

From 1 December 2015, new regulations came into force in Scotland regarding the provision of long-life carbon monoxide (CO) alarms in privately rented housing. This addition to the Housing (Scotland) Act is an amendment to the existing Repairing Standard, which firmly shifts the duty of care regarding the provision and, when necessary, replacement of carbon monoxide detectors to landlords. The legislation applies to all landlords in Scotland renting out property with fixed combustion appliances of any type, with the exception of appliances used exclusively for cooking.

Fire safety (Smoke Alarms) revised guidance in Scotland makes it mandatory that one fire and smoke detector alarm be fitted:

  1. in the room which is most frequently used by the occupant(s) for general daytime living purposes;
  2. in every circulation space (halls and landings);
  3. on each floor where there is more than one floor; and
  4. in every kitchen.

All alarms must be integrated.
In Scotland, statutory guidance is available on the Private Rented Housing Panel website.

Northern Ireland
In Northern Ireland, where any combustion appliance is installed, reasonable provision must be made to detect and give warning of the presence of carbon monoxide gas at levels harmful to people. The authority for this is that Technical Document L of the Building Regulations in Northern Ireland.

Landlords of private rental properties (that are not HMOs) are required, within reason, to ensure that the property they let is:

‘safe and would not cause injury or death to humans or pets’. 

Landlords must therefore be able to prove due diligence in a court of law should a fire occur at the property.

The Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service (NIFRS) recommends that the standards of fire safety in private rental properties should be at least equivalent to the current fire safety standards expected in a modern domestic property. Therefore landlords renting a private property should at least provide working smoke alarms (preferably inter-connected) on each level of the property and detection in the principle habitable room, considered to be the main living room, and a heat detector and fire blanket in the kitchen area.

Tom Entwistle, MSc, FRSA, is the editor of LandlordZONE®

Further information

The Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarm (England) Regulations 2015