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The Smoke and Carbon Monoxide (England) Regulations 2015

Commencement: 

The Regulations came into force on 1st October 2015.

Scope: 

The regulations apply to properties in England and are intended to reduce the risk of injury or death caused by smoke or carbon monoxide in the private rented sector.

The Building Regulations 2010 require all new-build properties (built on or after 1st June 1992) to have hard wired smoke alarms installed on at least each storey of the property and the installation of a carbon monoxide alarm in all properties when a solid fuel heating system is first installed. However, there has been no legislation in place requiring the installation of smoke alarms on every storey, or older non licensed properties, or any requirement where the system was installed before 1st October 2010.

The new regulations require landlords in the private rented sector in England to ensure that their rented property, which is occupied, is equipped with a smoke alarm and a carbon monoxide alarm the details of which are set out below.

What alarms are required?: 

Where a property is occupied under a tenancy on or after 1st October 2015 landlords must ensure that:

  • a smoke alarm is installed on each storey of the premises on which there is a room used wholly or partly as living accommodation; and
  • a carbon monoxide alarm is installed in any room of the premises which is used wholly or partly as living accommodation and contains a solid fuel burning combustion appliance.

The regulations do not specify what type of alarms should be fitted or where they should be fitted. Landlords should choose alarms appropriate for their properties.

Government guidance advises that ‘manufacturer’s instructions should be followed when installing alarms but in general smoke alarms should be fixed to the ceiling in a circulation space i.e. a hall or a landing and carbon monoxide alarms should be positioned at head height either on a wall or shelf approximately 1 to 3 meters away from a potation source of carbon monoxide.’

A room is usually classed as living accommodation if it is used for the purpose of living or where a person spends a significant amount of time. The regulations state that a bathroom or lavatory would be living accommodation.

Who is responsible for checking alarms?: 

Landlords are required to carry out checks to ensure that each alarm is in proper working order on the day the tenancy begins if it is a new tenancy which started on or after 1st October 2015. The regulations state that ‘a tenancy begins on the day on which under the terms of the tenancy the tenant is entitled to possession under that tenancy.’ (4(3))

Government guidance advises that tenants should take responsibility for their own safety and test all alarms regularly to make sure they are in working order. It would be advisable to include a clause within the tenancy agreement to confirm that the tenant is responsible for testing the alarms and replacing any batteries as required during the tenancy.

Tenancies and Exclusions: 

The regulations apply to a tenancy, lease or licence of residential premises in England which:

  • grants one or more persons the right to occupy all or part of the premises as their only or main residence;
  • provides for the payment of rent; and
  • is not an excluded tenancy.

There are seven exclusions to the regulations but the two applicable to residential landlords are accommodation shared with the landlord or the landlord’s family and where the tenancy is a long lease or grants a right of occupation for a term of 7 years or more.

The regulations do not apply to a tenancy granted in pursuance of an agreement entered into before 1st October 2015, a statutory periodic tenancy or where the landlord and the tenant are the same as under the earlier tenancy and the property let is the same or substantially the same as the earlier tenancy.

Remedial Notice and Enforcement: 

The Local Authority will be responsible for enforcement and can issue the landlord with a remedial notice requiring alarms to be fitted or tested within 28 days if they believe the regulations have not been complied with.

If the landlord proves compliance, either by becoming compliant or proving they were already compliant, or have taken reasonable steps to become compliant within 28 days, then the landlord will be exempt from the penalty.

If the landlord fails to comply with the notice the local authority can issue a fine of up to £5,000.

Where a landlord does not agree with the penalty charge notice they can make a request in writing for the local authority to review the matter and then appeal to the First-tier Tribunal.

Sources for Further Information: 

  • www.legislation.gov.uk  – The Building Regulations 2010 and The Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarm (England) Regulations 2015
  • www.gov.uk  – The Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarm (England) Regulations 2015: Q&A booklet for the private rented sector – landlords and tenants
  • Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service factsheet on smoke alarms available from www.dsfire.gov.uk 

This summary is intended to assist landlords and letting agents to understand the effect of the Regulations/Act. It is not an authoritative interpretation – this is a matter for the courts. For more detail, you should refer to the text of the Regulations/Act themselves.