Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarm (England) Regulations 2015.

As of 1 October 2015 landlords in England were required to install smoke detectors (alarms) on each floor of their rental properties, these can be either hard wired or battery operated.

Heat detectors designed for kitchens cannot be a substitute for smoke alarms.

CO detectors are required in rooms where a solid fuel appliance, such as an open fire or log burning stove, are installed.

There is no legal requirement to install a CO detector where gas appliances the Department of Communities and Local Government (DCLG) has said that it would expect, and encourage responsible landlords to ensure that they have installed working CO detectors to their properties.

Although not a legal requirement in the case of gas appliances, the Department of Communities and Local Government (DCLG) has said that it would expect and encourage responsible landlords to ensure that working CO alarms are installed.

Landlords with properties in England must now fit these devices and not wait for the start of a new tenancy.

New requirements summary

At least one smoke alarm must be installed on each storey of a rental property used as living accommodation, and a CO alarm in any room containing solid fuel appliances that is used as living accommodation.

The landlord must make sure the alarms are in working order at the start of each new tenancy. Note: in the DCLG’s view, for the purpose of these regulations, a mezzanine floor would not be considered a storey.

In general, smoke alarms should be fixed to the ceiling in a circulation space, i.e. a hall or a landing, and CO alarms should be positioned at head height, either on a wall or shelf, approximately 1‒3m away from a potential source.

The immediate landlord (or someone acting on their behalf) must test the alarms on the first day of a new tenancy, ideally with the tenant/s present.

Tenants should be advised to take responsibility for their own safety and test all alarms regularly to make sure they are in working order; testing monthly is generally considered an appropriate frequency.

The first day of the tenancy is the date stipulated in the agreement, even where the tenant decides to actually move into the property on a later date.

A new tenancy is one commencing after the 1 October 2015, not a continuation of an existing tenancy before that date.

In cases where tenants refuse access for alarm fitting or testing, the landlord should write to them, with a copy to the local authority, explaining that it is a legal requirement to install the alarms and that it is for their own safety.

The regulations do not stipulate the type of alarms (such as hard wired or battery powered) to 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 or hard-wired alarms are installed in pre-1 June 1992 properties.

The regulations will apply to any tenancy, lease or licence (not lodgers living with a landlord or family) of residential premises in England, that gives somebody 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.

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Documentary evidence

Landlords and/or their managing agents should ensure that they have documentary evidence that the alarms are tested and in working order on the first day of a tenancy, for example, by the tenant signing a copy of an inventory or having a risk assessment. Failure to comply with these regulations would mean the local housing authority can levy a civil penalty charge of up to £5,000 on the landlord, 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 basic risk assessments covering fire, gas, electrical, Legionella and general safety inside and outside the property between each tenancy

The Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarm (England) Regulations can be found here

There is a handy FAQ guide here

In England and Wales there is also a duty under the Part J of the 2010 Building Regulations for England and Wales to have CO alarms fitted when a solid fuel heating system is installed.

You can read more here

This article applies primarily to English law. Although tenancy laws are similar in other jurisdictions, there may be significant differences. Always seek professional advice before making or not making important decisions.

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