Apologies in advance for what will probably unravel to be one of the most mundane and disengaging blog posts of the year. I wouldn’t wish this article upon my worst enemy, because there’s absolutely nothing exhilarating about a couple of inanimate devices that you can’t install apps or watch porn on.
However, I’d be remiss if I didn’t discuss the important issues like the new ‘Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarm Regulations‘, despite how devastatingly uninteresting and unamusing they are, because it is now officially a landlord’s legal responsibility.
Okay, let’s roll this tape…
Landlord Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarm legislation requirements
So, the million dollar question (once whittled down to its purest form)… do landlords need to supply smoke alarms?
The short answer: yes, some will.
All landlords in England (not Wales at this point, although I’m not sure why) will be required to comply with what some people have labelled as the “life saving law” (a bit dramatic, if you ask me) by October 2015, which demands the following:
- Install a smoke alarm on each floor of the premises on which there is a room used wholly or partly as living accommodation.
- Equip a carbon monoxide alarm in any room of the premises which is used wholly or partly as living accommodation and contains a solid fuel burning combustion appliance (e.g. a coal fire, wood burning stove).
Err I don’t really know what qualifies as a “solid fuel burning combustion appliance”, so I would personally supply one in every property.
- Check that each prescribed alarm is in proper working order on the day the tenancy begins if it is a new tenancy (this part only applies to “new” tenancies that start on and after the 1st of October 2015).
Yes, the alarms need to be checked on the day the tenancy begins, so that means landlords/agents need to meet all new tenants at the property now on the day the tenancy begins! That’s probably a normal ritual for self-managed landlords, but agents usually expect tenants to collect the keys from their local branch- it seems like that may have to change now. I wonder how many agents will now throw on a compulsory “check-in” fee…
To clarify, it is the landlords responsibility to ensure the legislation is complied with, not the letting agents or anyone acting on behalf of the landlord. Although, all good agents should have informed their landlords of the legislation, and helped facilitate compliance. If they haven’t informed you, it might be worth going into medieval-mode; walk into their office with your own blood smeared over your face (because that’s glaringly scary and psychotic) and start smashing shit up with a sledgehammer, while demanding to know what you’re paying them for.
That’s what I’d do anyways.
You actually wouldn’t be a total donkey to assume there was already a legislation in place to enforce such basic and useful safety requirements, but remarkably, there wasn’t. While you may not have looked into the Landlord and Tenant Act(s) in its entirety (generally, no one normal with a life has) and read the actual words, you probably just assumed it’s tucked away in there somewhere. Well It’s not there.
That said, it makes you wonder what kind of drivelling fools are running the show, especially when you bear in mind that Energy Performance Certificates (EPC) became mandatory several years ago. Here are a few interesting stats for you: since the EPC legislation came into play it’s 1) never been used 2) never saved a single life.
Ok, so the Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarm Regulations is a legal requirement and it all seems relatively pretty straight forward on the surface. But there has been criticism from “experts” on how it’s all been hashed together rather quickly, and consequently documented rather poorly. Granted, it has all been a bit slap-dash, but I wouldn’t get bogged down with the politics, just do yourself a favour and make sure you’re compliant. In reality, most sensible and normal humans won’t have to lift a finger, because they’ll already be compliant. Or at least 70% compliant, so it shouldn’t entail much extra work.
It has to be said, besides from the dog-shit legal documentation which is riddled with unanswered questions and confusion, the principle of the law seems to have broken the mould from being total nonsense. The last few that got passed were a total waste of time and money, at best. Although, I have heard some miserable bastards make mumbling remarks about how tenants should be responsible for their own safety. My response to that is, screw the tenants, asshole! What about the safety of our property(s)? Installing smoke alarms benefit both tenants and landlords; it could be the difference between a burnt kitchen and an entire property that’s been reduced to smoking rubble.
Official Government Documentation & Guides
You can read the full legislation (currently in draft version) over here on the Gov website. As with all legislations, it’s edge-of-the-seat stuff and it’s written in plain English so us mere mortals can understand. No, really! Enjoy :)
The Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarm (England) Regulations 2015: Q&A booklet
Fortunately, the Government has also issued a short’ish Booklet which is in plainer English. I definitely recommend for ALL landlords to read it, even if that means in-between wipes while on the crapper. It includes useful guidance, like where you should place the devices.
You can download it from here.
What if I don’t comply?
Good question. I also always try to determine if it’s worth dodging a few requirements if it means I’m able to fund an extra annual holiday to Magaluf.
Failure to comply can lead to a civil penalty being imposed of up to £5,000 by the local authorities. Suppose it’s also worth mentioning that lives could be saved with your compliance (because that’s nearly as important as money). According to this article on the Gov website, enforcing this legislation will help prevent up to 26 deaths and 670 injuries a year.
Unfortunately, in this case, I’m not convinced the gamble of going without is worth it, so you may as well do as you’re told and roll over.
It has been emphasised that there is NO grace period, so landlords that have tenancies that started before October 2015 MUST comply by that date, and tenancies that start on or after October 2015 must be compliant when a tenancy begins!
Testing & placement of devices
The regulations do not stipulate how to test the alarms or where the alarms should be placed, just that at least one smoke alarm should be on every storey and a carbon monoxide alarm in every room containing a solid fuel burning appliance.
However, the guidance notes stipulate that you should follow the individual manufacturer’s instructions when installing the alarms. The instructions should also mention how to test the alarms. I would recommend following the manufacturer’s instructions and then file them away for safe keeping.
Most devices have a “test” button- pushing that to ensure the alarm triggers should be enough, in my opinion.
Landlord Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarm maintenance
You may notice there’s nothing mentioned about “maintaining” the devices, only ensuring they’re in proper working when a new tenancy begins. The guidance notes say, “After the landlord’s test on the first day of the tenancy, tenants should take responsibility for their own safety and test all alarms regularly to make sure they are in working order.”
- Airborne dust and contaminants can interfere with an alarm’s ability to detect smoke/toxins, so it’s important to clean all detectors in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions. There are plenty of resources available online (e.g. YouTube tutorials), which will guide you through efficient maintenance practices. Do a little research.
- Even with regular cleaning and battery changes, smoke and Carbon Monoxide detectors don’t last forever. Old devices can randomly fail, even if they “look” clean enough to eat your dinner off of and/or use as a prop for your exciting and imaginative sex-life. I read somewhere that it’s recommended to change them every 10 years.
- If you’re a new landlord that has just purchased a new property and you’re not sure of the history of any installed alarms, it might be worth replacing them with new ones.
My landlord hasn’t fitted the appropriate alarms
If you’re a tenant and your landlord hasn’t complied with the regulation, you should contact your local housing authority and lodge a complaint. The guidance notes states the following on the matter:
The local housing authority will be responsible for enforcing the regulations. They will be able to issue a remedial notice requiring a landlord to fit and/or test the alarms within 28 days. If the landlord fails to comply with the notice, the local housing authority must, if the occupier consents, arrange for the alarms to be fitted and/or tested. The local housing authority can also levy a civil penalty charge on the landlord of up to £5,000.
Carbon Monoxide Alarms
Most sensible landlords will already supply smoke alarms, but you’ll be forgiven for neglecting Carbon Monoxide alarms, because they’re equivalent to the ugly sister- rarely ever spoken about or touched unless completely intoxicated, and by the morning- you don’t even want to remember.
Smoke alarms detect smoke generated by flames, while Carbon Monoxide alarms detect dangerous Carbon Monoxide (which is a toxic gas) levels, which can be caused, for example, by malfunctioning fuel-burning appliances (e.g. log burning stove). I don’t really understand the technicalities, but the devices sound useful.
You can buy smoke alarms and Carbon Monoxide alarms as separate devices, but you can also find dual purpose devices, which act as smoke and Carbon Monoxide detectors. They’re all pretty inexpensive, ranging from £5 and upwards. But generally, I don’t see any reason to spend more than £30 on both devices. Either way, I think we can all agree they’re relatively cheap life-savers (and property).
Needless to say, similarly to when any new legislation is introduced, I’m sure many letting agents will try to take advantage of the situation by conjuring up spectacularly creative ways of profiteering from it. So, if for example, you’re explicitly told that you need some special kind of device that is only accessible through their supplier(s) and can only be installed by their recommended tradesman, just give them the finger and be on your merry way.
While the cheapest is this…
Here’s a dual purpose device, which detects smoke and Carbon Monoxide levels…
You may find that some devices are battery powered, while others are mains powered. The law doesn’t specify between the two, they just need to be in good working order. But if you plan on getting a mains powered alarm(s), you may want to factor in the additional costs of an electrician to install the little buggers.
All my properties have main powered smoke alarms and I’ll be supplying separate battery powered Carbon Monoxide alarms to those that don’t already have them.
Based on what it says in the ‘Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarm (England) Regulations 2015 booklet’ provided by the Government, I don’t even think I need to supply the latter, but I do anyways to cover my back. In the guide it says, “carbon monoxide alarm in any room containing a solid fuel burning appliance (e.g. a coal fire, wood burning stove)” – instead of two examples, an intensive list or definition would have been useful (that’s just one example of why I labelled the documentation slap-dash and generally shit).
Landlord Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarm Acknowledgement Form
Still awake? Cool. Not long left now. You’ve done well to last this long.
Let’s move onto good practice and protecting your ass against finger-pointing and alleged negligence. That bullshit can be a right pain.
The thing with smoke and carbon monoxide alarms is that they have a miraculous habit of going missing, especially when they’re not connected to the mains. I honestly don’t know where the tenants shove them, but they’re often not in the same practical place I last saw them. Very strange, especially since there’s not a big market for domestic second-hand smoke detectors. But then again, I’ve had a tenant walk away with plastic window levers. The mind boggles.
Add the ‘mystery of the disappearing alarms’ with the growing desire of every Tom, Dick and Harry wanting to take legal action over bullshit to make an easy buck, you may quickly realise it’s better to put a preventative in place. So while the use of a acknowledgement form isn’t part of the requirements, I would highly recommend doing it for your own protection.
At the beginning of a new tenancy (which may include a new tenancy with the same tenants) get the tenant to confirm the following (assuming the points have been covered):
- 1) There is a working smoke alarm on each floor;
- 2) There is a working carbon monoxide alarm in each room which contains a solid fuel burning combustion appliance;
- 3) All devices have been properly tested.
I know what you’re thinking. Well, at least those of you that managed to bag a couple of GSCEs: a good inventory should cover the first two points. That’s true. But many landlords don’t bother with inventories because they’re not legally required, but also, there’s no harm in getting confirmation with an acknowledgement form.
At the bottom of this post, you can download and use a template form.
So, here’s a riveting question that will transform your knickers into a delicious soggy mess… What are your thoughts on the legislation? Is there anything you wish to add?
Grab the mic and say your piece!
If this blog post has you on the edge of your seat and gasping for more (which would be totally unimaginable), you maybe interested in the Landlord Legal Responsibilities, Obligations & Regulations post, which covers a lot more of the cool landlord requirements.
Disclaimer: I'm just a landlord blogger; I'm 100% not qualified to give legal or financial advice. I'm a doofus. Any information I share is my unqualified opinion, and should never be construed as professional legal or financial advice. You should definitely get advice from a qualified professional for any legal or financial matters. For more information, please read my full disclaimer.