Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Detector Requirements
On This Page
Last updated 26 September 2022 - updates in preparation for 1 October
Since 1 October 2015 landlords in England have been required to:
- ensure smoke alarms are installed in all of their rented residential accommodation, and
- ensure carbon monoxide alarms are fitted in every room with a solid fuel heating appliance. This includes any open fireplace that is available for use i.e not blocked off.
As of 1 October 2022, the requirements are expanded so that any room with a fuel burning appliance will normally require a carbon monoxide alarm. The legislation also requires landlords to take action when tenants report a faulty alarm to them.
The regulations apply both to houses and flats and also to HMOs; and are included in HMO licences. Failure to comply can lead to a civil penalty being imposed of up to £5,000.
These provisions only apply in England at the moment. However similar requirements are set to be introduced in Wales once the Renting Homes Wales Act is brought into force.
The following page will provide landlords with guidance on how to comply with this legislation and to ensure that properties are safe for tenants.
What are the requirements for smoke alarms?
During any period beginning on or after 1 October 2015, while the premises are occupied under a tenancy (or licence) the landlord must ensure that a smoke alarm is equipped on each storey of the premises on which there is a room used wholly or partly as living accommodation.
Rooms used as living accommodation include lounges, dining rooms, kitchens, bathrooms and separate toilets. It also includes a hall or landing.
Mezzanines are also caught by this legislation where they contain a room used wholly or partly as living accommodation.
For individual flats located on one floor there will have to be at least one alarm on each storey of the premises. Heat detectors are not considered sufficient. It will have to be a smoke alarm.
What are the requirements for carbon monoxide alarms
From 1 October 2022, all properties will be expected to have CO detector fitted in every room that is:
- used partly or wholly as living accommodation, and
- contains any appliance which burns, or is capable of burning fuel.
This would include gas boilers, wooden stoves, open fires, etc.
The only exception to this is are rooms where the only fuel burning appliance is a gas cooker. While the legislation does not define a gas cooker precisely, the Government guidance states it is 'any apparatus heated by gas and used for cooking food.'
Where a fire place is purely decorative, and has been blocked off, then a CO alarm would not be required.
Prior to 1 October 2022, this requirement only applied to rooms with a solid fuel burning appliance such as coal fire.
Where should the alarms be placed?
The guidance suggests that landlords follow the alarm manufacturer's instructions. This will typically be at head height between 1-3 meters away from the fuel-burning source for carbon monoxide alarms and in a circulation point for smoke detectors.
What type of alarm should be used?
The regulations do not stipulate what kind of smoke or carbon monoxide alarm is required, just that it works.
However, for smoke alarms, ideally, it should be a mains-wired, interconnected alarm system as this is the modern standard required in the building regulations. As a result, if you use a standalone battery-powered smoke alarm then local authorities are likely to consider this a hazard if they inspect; likely requiring you improve it using their powers under the Housing Health and Safety Rating System.
Requirement to ensure the alarms are in working order
The landlord is specifically required to carry out a check to ensure that smoke alarms or carbon monoxide alarms are in proper working order on the day a tenancy begins where it is a new tenancy.
From 1 October 2022 if a landlord is notified by a tenant of a defective smoke or CO alarm the amended regulations require landlords to investigate and repair or replace the item as soon as reasonably possible.
How should checks be performed during the tenancy?
Typically the tenant will be responsible for checking the alarm during the lifetime of the tenancy. Landlords are advised to provide them with the instruction manual or demonstrate how to perform these checks to ensure they are done correctly.
If tenants find that their alarms are not in working order during the tenancy, they are advised to arrange for the replacement of the batteries.
If the alarm still does not work after replacing the batteries, or if tenants are unable to replace the batteries themselves, they should report this to the relevant landlord.
Who must comply with these requirements?
The requirements are imposed on the immediate landlord of the tenant.
In addition, as this is now a mandatory licensing condition, if the property requires a mandatory, additional or selective licence, then it is the responsibility of the licence holder to ensure that these alarms are fitted in the property and in working order at the outset of the tenancy.
Which premises are affected?
These duties apply to almost all residential premises in the private rented sector. It also includes tenancies where the building is in mixed-use such as a flat above a shop.
Which premises/tenancies are exempted from these regulations?
There are various excluded tenancies found in the Act such as:
- A tenancy under which the occupier shares any accommodation with the landlord or a member of the landlord's family. There must be sharing of an amenity which includes a toilet, personal washing facilities, a kitchen or a living room but excludes any reference to storage or access
- A tenancy which is let on a long lease (more than 7 years)
- Student halls of residence
I have tried to fit the carbon monoxide alarms but my tenant refuses access, what should I do?
The existing regulations are clear that landlords must take all reasonable steps to comply with a remedial notice but are not expected to go to court to gain access in order to be compliant. Landlords should be able to demonstrate that they have taken all reasonable steps to comply to Local Authorities.
For example, landlords should write to their tenants to explain that it is a legal requirement to install the alarms and that it is for the tenant’s own safety. Landlords should try to arrange a time to visit that is convenient for the tenant, and keep a written record of access attempts to provide to the local housing authority if required.
Landlords should attempt to understand why tenants cannot or will not provide access and work with them to find a solution.
Who is responsible for enforcement?
The local authority is responsible for enforcement.
A local authority must serve a remedial notice within 21 days where they have reason to believe that the landlord is in breach of any of these duties relating to smoke alarms or carbon monoxide alarms. A remedial notice must specify the action to be taken within 28 days of the date of service of the notice.
Should the landlord wish to make representations to the local authority they have 28 days in which to respond to the remedial notice. Once this has been done, the notice is suspended until the local authority reviews their decision and notifies the landlords of the outcome.
The outcome of the review must be provided to the landlord in writing no later than 35 days after the original notice is served.
If the local authority does not do this, then the notice is considered to be withdrawn.
If the notice is confirmed after review, landlords will have 21 days to address the contents of the notice and fix the issues.
There is an excuse for a landlord for non-compliance with the notice if the landlord can show that he has taken reasonable steps to comply with the duty, but the landlord is not required to take legal proceedings. This could cover a situation where the tenant refuses access to allow the work to be done.
If the landlord is in breach the local authority may require the landlord to pay a penalty charge up to a maximum of £5,000. It has discretion whether or not to impose this charge and if intends to impose a charge, must serve a penalty charge notice within six weeks from when first satisfied that a breach has occurred. A right to make representations against the penalty notice is given and the local authority may reduce the charge for prompt payment.
For licensed properties, failure to comply with this regulation is a breach of a mandatory condition. This carries a potential civil penalty of up to £30,000.
If the local authority upholds a penalty charge notice there is a right to appeal for the landlord to the First-Tier Tribunal. The grounds of appeal are:-
- Local authority has made an error of fact or law
- The amount of penalty charge is unreasonable
- The decision to impose a penalty is unreasonable for any other reason
Payment of the penalty is suspended pending any appeal.
Local authority penalty policy
Each local authority must publish a statement of principles which will be followed in determining the amount of any penalty charge. This statement will be taken into account in deciding on an individual penalty for a particular case.