What’s The Deal With Smoke Alarms?

There is now a mandatory introduction of smoke and carbon monoxide alarms in private rented homes. This was introduced in October 2015. Carbon monoxide alarms are only required in rooms with a solid fuel appliance.

Failure to comply with these rules can lead to a penalty being imposed of up to £5,000. It is important that you are aware of your obligations as a landlord to avoid legal proceedings.

The requirements are imposed on the immediate landlord. In the case of a licensed HMO it is the responsibility of the licence holder to ensure that the mandatory conditions are complied with.

The duty applies to residential premises which includes all or part of which comprises a dwelling; meaning it will apply to dwellings such as a flat above a shop.

There are some exceptions;

  • A tenancy whereby the occupier shares any accommodation with the landlord (or a member of the landlords family)
  • A tenancy which is for more than 21 years
  • Student halls
  • Hostels
  • Care homes
  • Hospitals

During any period beginning on or after 1st October, whilst the premises are occupied under a tenancy (or licence) the landlord must ensure that a smoke alarm is installed on each storey of the property on which there is a room used as living accommodation.

The regulations do not stipulate what kind of alarm is required. It is advised to be a hard wired alarm system but can be a single standalone alarm. It is also advised to fit a ten year long life tamper proof alarm otherwise there could be an issue if the batteries are taken out and not replaced.

Heat detectors are not considered sufficient; it has to be a smoke detector.

Additionally, landlords must ensure that a carbon monoxide alarm is fitted in any room that is used as living accommodation and contains any appliance which burns, or is capable or burning, solid fuel. This includes log and coal burning stoves and open fires, even if they are not used. It does not include gas or oil burners. If an open fireplace is purely decorative and not useable then an alarm not required.

Gas is not a solid fuel and there is no requirement to fit a carbon monoxide alarm near a gas boiler; but is best practice.

The landlord is specifically required to carry out a check to ensure that smoke alarms or carbon monoxide alarms installed are in proper working order on the day a tenancy begins where it is a new tenancy. This applies to tenancies granted on or after 1st October 2015.

A new tenancy does not include a tenancy which was granted where the original agreement was entered into before 1st October 2015; nor does it include periodic tenancies.

If a landlord does not comply with the above requirements, the local authority is responsible for enforcement. The local authority must serve a remedial notice within 21 days where they have reason to believe that the landlord is in breach of the requirements. The notice must specify the particular action to be taken within 28 days. The landlord can appeal the notice if they believe it has been issued incorrectly.

There is an exception for complying with the notice if the landlord can prove that he has taken reasonable steps to comply with the requirements. This covers the situation whereby the tenant refuses access to allow the work to be done.

If the landlord fails to comply with the notice the the local authority must arrange for the remedial work to be completed within 28 days. The local authority must have the consent of the occupier (i.e. the tenant). If a tenant refuses access then the local authority cannot comply.

The local authority can impose a penalty charge up to a maximum of £5,000. This is at the discretion of the local authority. If they choose to impose a charge they must serve a penalty charge notice within six weeks from when it is first established that the breach occurred.

The landlord can appeal against the penalty notice. For example, the landlord could state that the local authority have made an error of fact or law, the amount is unreasonable or the decision to impose a penalty is unreasonable.

If you require any further advice on this matter or indeed, any other landlord and tenant matter then please get in touch using our online form, or telephone 01536 276300.