Carter Jonas
Carter Jonas

New law is passed so be ready with smoke and CO alarms

There is considerable confusion within the lettings industry after the House of Lords literally pulled the plug on legislation that would have seen smoke alarms become compulsory from October 1 – only for it to be reinstated a week later.

Many in the lettings industry had already geared up for the change, seen as a major advance with regard to tenant safety. But the noble lords declared that the industry had not been consulted sufficiently ahead of the measure becoming effective so rejected the legislation with only three weeks to go to the deadline for implementation.

With exactly two weeks to go, the legislation was then passed meaning that from October 1 the Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarm (England) Regulations 2015 will be in force.

All landlords in England, or agents acting on their behalf, will be required to install smoke alarms on every floor of their property and test them at the start of every tenancy.

Landlords or their agents must also fit carbon monoxide alarms in rooms with a solid fuel appliance, which includes wood burners and open fires.

Those who fail to meet the regulations face fines of up to £5,000.

Landlords who have not yet prepared for the smoke alarm installations believing that they no longer need worry about the October 1 deadline must now ensure they have the necessary alarms in place or risk being fined.

Of particular note are the regulations concerning sub-tenancies, especially those in the agricultural sector. Where a tenant farmer has the tenancy of a farm which includes residential properties that he or she lets on their own terms, then that farmer will be the “relevant landlord” and consequently responsible for complying with the legislation. 

It is already the case that under the Buildings Regulations 1991 all newly built property from June, 1992, and houses in multiple occupation (HMOs) must have fitted mains-powered smoke alarms with battery backup. 

For some time, in anticipation of the regulations that come into effect on October 1 we have been advising 

landlords to install smoke alarms in all properties to both protect the occupants and help prevent legal action against landlords.

It is also already a legal requirement for HMOs to have a carbon monoxide (CO) alarm fitted. We have been advising landlords to install CO alarms in all properties to protect the occupier and help prevent any legal action against the landlord.

Landlords of all rental properties (subject to a small number of exemptions – such as licensed HMO properties and properties where there is a resident landlord) are required to do the following:

1. Install at least one smoke alarm on each storey of a rental property that is used as living accommodation. These alarms may be battery powered or hardwired although some local authorities may have local regulations which require more stringent conditions. This requirement is for all rental properties, not just those with tenancies beginning after 01 October 2015. Install a CO detector in any room that contains a solid fuel appliance which includes coal- or wood-burning fires and wood-burning stoves. Wood-burning stoves installed since 2011 must already have a CO detector and a certificate proving they have been safely installed.

2. Currently gas appliances are not covered by the above Regulations but we strongly advise that CO detectors are installed in properties with gas- or oil-fired appliances. Remember, installation of CO alarms is a requirement for all rental properties with solid fuel appliances not just those with tenancies beginning after October 1, 2015.

3. Carry out testing to ensure that all smoke and CO alarms are in working order at the start of each new tenancy commencing on October 1 2015 or thereafter. There is currently no requirement to check alarms during the tenancy as this responsibility will lie with the tenant.

Ensure that you are ready for the October 1 deadline. Despite the confusion caused by a week when all believed the legislation might not go through, there is unlikely to be any period of grace.

Lisa SimonMARLA

Partner - Head of National Residential Lettings

Lisa is the head of Residential Lettings at Carter Jonas; she is based in our Knightsbridge and Chelsea office where she started her career and advises on all aspects of letting and managing propert...

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