Legal: Smoke and carbon monoxide alarms

It is a sad fact that fire kills on average 36 people per year in rental properties. October 2015 saw a change in the law, making landlords responsible for ensuring working smoke alarms are installed in their properties. Let’s take a look in detail what you need to know as a landlord. 

This probably doesn’t come as much of a surprise to most landlords; after all it has been in effect for some time now. I did however want to go into the details to help existing landlords understand the requirements, as well as educating new landlords on what their obligations are.

If you go back to 1988, only 8% of homes had a smoke alarm fitted. As of the end of 2015, this has risen to over 90% This did include many rental properties, however the government has made the decision to make it a mandatory requirement in the hope of saving more lives being lost to a house fire.

Here are the exact requirements;

– A smoke alarm (wired or battery) must be fitted to every habitable floor in the property. EG if the basement is a useable living space, an alarm must be fitted.

– A carbon monoxide alarm must be fitted in every room where there is a solid fuel burning appliance (e.g. coal fire, wood burner). It is not required to fit one in gas properties, however it is recommended.

– It is the landlord’s responsibility (or appointed agent) to test that the alarm is fully functional and working at the time the tenants move in. After this time, you should make the tenant aware it is their responsibility to regularly check the alarm is working (the recommended frequency is monthly).

Although smoke alarms will already be fitted in the majority of properties due to building regulations, the major change is the addition of carbon monoxide alarms. When the change in legislation came into effect in October 2015, fire stations were giving these away to landlords for free. It is still possible to get them in some areas, however they are also reasonably priced and easy to get hold of in most hardware shops.

It is also very important to note that the alarm must be tested on the first day of the tenant moving in to the property. If you are using a letting agent this should be part of the move-in procedure. It is good practice to get the tenant to sign to say they know how to test the alarm and how to report any faults should they occur. It is also good practice to test the alarms on any routine scheduled inspection of the property.

Failure to meet these requirements will lead to a £5,000 fine and potentially a prison sentence.

It can be very challenging to keep up with all of the legal requirements and responsibilities you have as a landlord. I would always recommend speaking to your local lettings expert for advice.

At Belvoir Bournemouth we have a professional and well trained team who ensure the properties we manage meet all of the legal requirements. If you would like to find out more about how we can help you manage your rental property, please get in touch with us.

(Do remember there are additional requirements around Fire Safety for Houses of Multiple Occupancy (HMO) so please let me know if you would like any additional advice).