After many years of lobbying for smoke detectors to be a legal requirement in rented property, draft regulation has finally been released to reflect the requests of the industry in the Draft Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarms Regulations 2015
It has seemed crazy that over the years, so many people have died or been seriously injured in house fires of rented properties, due to not having basic smoke alarms fitted. These incidents have repeatedly bought the debate about smoke alarms into debate, but for the first time, it has succeeded and will be law for all landlords renting property from October this year and it is thought that this land mark move will help prevent around 26 deaths and 670 injuries a year.
The measure will take effect from October this year and it is not before time. As a company we decided to insist on smoke alarms in all of our rented property for around 10 years now and during that time, there has been numerous examples of where they have saved lives, in our properties alone, so i truly believe that this new regulation will have a great impact on the safety of rented accommodation nationally.
Since 1991, under the building regulations, all new builds and conversions have had to have smoke detectors fitted, and since 2004 there has been very strict requirements for HMO properties or house shares to have as a minimum Grade D smoke alarm systems fitted (mains wired and interlinked)
The big difference between having or not having a smoke detector is in the time an occupant would have in being able to escape, worse so, the effects of not having a detector if a fire were to break out during the night would result in death from smoke inhalation, but an alarm would give the occupants advance warning of issues and the ability to escape in time, whereas without these devices fitted, they may well have perished, so i’m truly perplexed as to why did it take so long to get this requirements through.
So what does a landlord have to do and what are the requirements
From October the 1st Landlords of all rented properties let after that date, will have to ensure that there is a working smoke alarm on each floor of their rented property as well as a carbon monoxide detector in any rooms where solid fuel is burnt, such as Coal, Wood or Biomass, which includes open fires.
The challenge that has been discussed many times over the past few years, was, “if i fit a smoke
alarm and the tenant takes the battery out, who is liable?” well the draft regulation has been set to clearly satisfy that issue and states that the landlord must make sure that the smoke alarms are working at the outset of the tenancy and thereafter, it is the responsibility of the tenant to test and replace the batteries, however a landlord would be required to replace any faulty alarms, during the tenancy.
Also bear in mind that with flats and maisonettes, if there is a room on the ground floor such as an entrance door, these will require an alarm also, plus bathrooms and lavatory, which may add an additional floor.
A slight challenge here is that the landlord would have to prove that he tested them and that they were fine, so testing and a signature from the tenants at the outset that they are happy the alarms are working, would be good practice, for the purpose of proof, such as the inventory or check in document.
If your tenancy is renewed or rolls over into Statutory Periodic Tenancy after the 1st October, this year, currently that is not expected to be deemed as a new tenancy therefore the requirement is expected to kick in on the next new tenancy with a new tenant.
The new rules are going to be enforced by the local authorities and must give a landlord notice within 21 days of when they believe a breach of the regulations has occurred, giving the landlord 28 days to comply, it would also be a defence for a landlord to show he had taken all reasonable steps to comply but could not do so, for reasons such as the tenant not letting them enter the property to carry out works.