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There are countless rules and regulations in place for UK landlords. These guidelines are designed to keep tenants safe and help the rental process run smoothly. Rental property safety standards also reduce the risk of injury, tenant disputes, and protect landlords against frivolous lawsuits or accusations.

As a landlord, you’re required to have certain safety checks and certifications in place before starting a tenancy. These records should be displayed on the rental property and provided to the tenant for safekeeping. Smoke and carbon monoxide alarms are one such safety requirement that all rental properties in the UK must have. 

Keep reading to learn more about the smoke and carbon monoxide alarm regulations in the UK for 2024 so you can remain compliant and provide your tenants with a safe place to live.

 

What Do the Rules for Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarms Require?

The Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarm England Regulations were most recently updated on 1 October 2022. Originally created in 2015, these regulations were amended in 2022 to include both private and social rental properties. Prior to this amendment, only private residencies were subject to these smoke and carbon monoxide alarm regulations. 

Starting on this date, all rentals are required to have at least one working smoke alarm on every story of the home where there are living accommodations. This law was enacted to include social rental properties and increase safety for all tenancies. 

These new regulations also state that a carbon monoxide alarm must be placed in any room used for living accommodations that also contains a fixed combustion appliance. This includes any appliance that uses fuel to generate heat (excluding gas cookers). CO alarms should be installed according to the manufacturer’s instructions and are usually placed at the head height between 1 and 3 meters from the fuel-burning source. 

One of the biggest changes facing landlords is that they will now be responsible for replacing or repairing all broken smoke and carbon monoxide alarms in their properties. Before the amended regulations, these repairs were the tenant’s responsibility. Now, once the tenant brings these problems to the landlord’s attention, they must address them immediately, with a few exceptions. 

 

Landlord Requirements: Types of Alarms and Where They’re Located 

Landlords don’t need to use a specific alarm type to remain compliant. Landlords can choose any type or brand of smoke and carbon monoxide alarm as long as they work and are placed in the appropriate places. For example, some landlords opt for battery-operated alarms since most of these repairs and replacements can be handled by the tenants. Others prefer hardwired alarms that last longer and offer additional safety features. Both types of alarms are suitable as long as they comply with the British Standards BS 5839-6 for smoke alarms and British Standards BS 50291 for carbon monoxide alarms. 

If you choose battery-powered alarms, it’s best to install ones with replaceable batteries instead of those that are “sealed for life.” This allows the tenant to easily replace dead batteries without you visiting the property or performing any repairs. Sealed batteries need special attention that may require a visit from the landlord, handyman, or someone familiar with these alarm types. It’s important to note that heat detectors and alarms are not a suitable replacement for smoke alarms. 

Battery-operated alarms should offer a long life of up to 10 years. These alarms require less frequent replacement and maintenance. They’re also tamper-proof, making them a good value and reliable choice.

Different tenants may require different types of alarms. Some smoke and carbon monoxide alarms let out a loud beep or siren when activated. This may not work if your tenants are deaf or have difficulty hearing. Instead, you should install alarms that use flashing lights and vibrations to indicate a problem. To save yourself time or a delay in rental payments, find out what type of alarm best suits your current tenants and have those installed before the tenancy begins.

Mains-powered alarms that are directly connected to the property’s electrical supply are also required to have a battery backup and be interconnected. This ensures continuous operation and functionality during power outages. Interconnected alarms also communicate with other alarms in the house using wireless technology, although some require a hardwired connection. This way, when one alarm detects smoke, it will trigger all of the other smoke alarms throughout the property, regardless of their location. 

In addition to smoke alarms, heat alarms are a wise investment for landlords but not a requirement. According to one survey, 60% of all fires occur in or near the kitchen. Heat alarms work by reacting to sudden and sharp increases in heat. This can alert the tenants to a possible fire or hazard long before smoke or fumes are present. This also eliminates the annoyance of false alarms due to burnt toast or other cooking mishaps.

 

What Obligation Do Landlords Have?

At the most basic level, landlords are responsible for ensuring that all correct alarms are installed in all the right places and are in working order. For example, carbon monoxide detectors must be installed in any room where a fixed combustion appliance is located and used. Smoke alarms are required on all floors where occupants reside. 

Landlords are required to test all alarms on the day the tenancy begins. Moving forward, it’s the tenant’s responsibility to report any issues with smoke or carbon monoxide alarms. Once the problem is reported, landlords or property managers need to make repairs or replacements as soon as possible. It’s also recommended they perform mid-term inspections and checks during routine visits to prevent unwanted issues. 

If the property has battery-powered alarms, tenants can replace these batteries themselves when the indicator light or alarm beeps. If the tenant is unable to replace the batteries or the alarm doesn’t work even with new batteries, they should report it to the landlord immediately.

What Tenancies Do These Regulations Apply To?

Prior to October 2022, smoke and carbon monoxide alarm regulations only applied to private rental properties. Now, both private and social rental spaces must adhere to these guidelines. The rules apply to all homes rented by private landlords or registered providers of social housing in England. 

Some tenancy exclusions apply.

  • Long leases
  • Student halls of residence
  • Shared accommodation with a landlord or their family
  • Hospitals or hospices
  • Care homes
  • Other accommodations related to health care provisions 
  • Hotels and refuges
  • Low-cost ownership homes
  • Owner-occupiers or owner-occupiers living in shared-ownership homes

 

Proving Compliance and Enforcement 

Failure to meet these regulations and requirements could mean trouble for non-compliant landlords. It’s not only immoral but illegal to let your property to tenants without all of the necessary safety measures in place. Compliance and enforcement are handled in a few different ways. 

It’s recommended that all landlords keep a record of when the alarms were installed, tested, and repaired if they were. In special cases, the local authority will determine whether or not the evidence provided is sufficient and if any other upgrades are required. 

Property managers and landlords often carry out inventory checks on move-in day as another way to keep detailed records. At this time, you can document that all of the alarms have been tested and are in working order. The tenant will then sign the inventory checklist and confirm this information is correct. If the alarms aren’t working, you’ll need to schedule repairs or replacements before the tenants can move in.

The local housing authority in your area is responsible for enforcing these safety checks and regulations. Landlords who are deemed not compliant should get new, functioning alarms installed as soon as possible to avoid long vacancies or penalties. The housing authority may also serve remedial notices to landlords who breach these regulations. Failure to comply with these notices could result in a £5,000 fine per breach rather than per property or landlord.

 

More FAQs About Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarm Regulations UK 2024

What is a fixed combustion appliance?

Carbon monoxide alarms are required in all rooms that contain fixed combustion appliances. This includes any fixed apparatus that uses burned fuel to generate heat. These types of appliances generally use wood, coal, oil, gas, and other natural elements to generate heat—for example, log-burning stoves, gas or oil boilers, and log-burning stoves. Gas cookers and non-functioning decorative fireplaces are not considered fixed-combustion appliances and, therefore, don’t require a carbon alarm. 

Do the same rules apply to the UK and Wales?

These regulations don’t currently apply to Welsh properties. However, the Renting Homes Wales Act of 2016 has similar requirements regarding the installation of carbon monoxide alarms. 

According to this Act, all rental properties meant for human habitation must have a carbon monoxide alarm in every room containing a solid fuel-burning appliance. Smoke alarms are also required on all floors. These Welsh laws were enacted on 1 December 2022 and haven’t been updated since.

What regulations are in place for Scotland?

Scotland’s smoke and carbon monoxide alarm regulations went into place in February 2022. These regulations state that all homes must be equipped with interlinking smoke and heat alarms, as well as carbon monoxide alarms. These regulations specify not only the type of alarm that must be used but also how many alarms are required based on the size of the property.

Rental properties in Scotland must have:

  • One smoke alarm in the room of the house that is used the most
  • One smoke alarm in every circulation space (landings, foyers, hallways, etc.)
  • One heat alarm in the kitchen
  • All homes with a carbon-fueled appliance must have a CO alarm
  • The alarm doesn’t have to be interlinked but must be mains powered or have a lifetime battery 

What other safety checks are landlords responsible for?

Landlords are required to maintain safe, inhabitable properties for their tenants. Smoke and carbon monoxide alarms are only two of the necessary safety checks. Others include:

  • Updated performance certificate
  • EICR (electrical installation condition report) and electrical check every 5 years
  • Gas safety check and record annually 

Landlords are also required to perform basic repairs and maintenance on all rental properties, including all stairs and walkways are secure and safe, the cooling and heating systems are in working order, all locks and windows are secure, and there are no issues with the electric or plumbing in the home.

Stay Safe with Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarms

A landlord’s success weighs heavily on their reputation. Tenants are more likely to rent from a reliable tenant with a proven track record of success.

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