Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarms
The Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarm (England) Regulations 2015 affected almost every rented property (including existing tenancies) and commenced on 1 October 2015. Amendments commencing 1 October 2022 extend the duties.
All rented property (including existing tenancies) must have a smoke alarm installed on every storey where there is living accommodation, a bathroom or a lavatory.
It is worth noting that a mezzanine floor (half landing) containing a bathroom or toilet alone would be counted as a storey and require a smoke alarm. Where there is a mezzanine floor used for access only, that won’t be counted as a storey.
There is no definition of a suitable smoke alarm for the regulations. Still, the best ones to fit in a typical family house would be either a mains interlinked with battery backup or a 10-year battery type. They will cost less by needing less maintenance and fewer batteries throughout their life.
Where to fit the alarm is not provided for in the regulations (other than on each storey). As a general rule, the best place to install a smoke alarm is on the highest point (usually the ceiling) in a hallway leading to an escape route and in a traditional two-storey house, installing one on the ground floor and one on the first-floor hallway by the stairs.
Carbon monoxide alarms
The regulations also require that a CO alarm be equipped in any room used wholly or partly as living accommodation and contains a solid fuel-burning combustion appliance.
From 1 October 2022, the duty is extended to any room used wholly or partly as living accommodation with a fixed combustion appliance other than a gas cooker.
If there is a boiler in a kitchen with a gas cooker, the CO alarm will need to be installed in the kitchen, but if there is only a gas cooker, it's not required and would be installed in the other room with the boiler.
A bathroom or lavatory is to be treated as a room used as living accommodation (r.4(2)), so if a boiler is in a bathroom, the CO alarm will need to be installed there.
Landlords should follow the individual manufacturer’s instructions when installing the alarms. However, in general, carbon monoxide alarms should be positioned at head height, either on a wall or shelf, approximately 1-3 metres away from a potential source of carbon monoxide.
A landlord must ensure that checks are made by or on behalf of the landlord to ensure that each prescribed alarm is in proper working order on the day the tenancy begins if it is a new tenancy that applies to both the smoke and carbon monoxide alarms.
The day the tenancy begins means “on the day on which, under the terms of the tenancy, the tenant is entitled to possession under that tenancy”.
The guidance issued by the CLG suggests a suitable way of showing the alarms were tested on the start day of the tenancy by making–
provision for the tenant to sign the inventory to record that the required alarms have been tested by the landlord and the tenant is satisfied they are in working order.
The general advice for checking smoke alarms ‘on the day the tenancy begins’ is as follows:
- always follow the manufacturer’s instructions first and foremost for testing
- where the alarm is a simple mains interlinked, 10-year battery or cheap 9v battery type, pressing the button on the day the tenancy begins should be sufficient, assuming the alarm sounds correctly
- where the system has a panel on the wall (usually in the communal hallway), you should visually inspect the panel to ensure there are no faults. Press the evacuate button to test the system, and for added comfort (and if competent), try a manual call point in the same zone as the relevant smoke alarms. You can use the smoke spray if skilled in carrying out that test. It would be best if you didn’t use the spray every occasion (seek advice). If the sounders do not operate as they should, you should immediately seek advice from a competent fire alarm engineer
- the regulations do not apply to licensable HMOs, so you should consult the licence conditions. The alarm would generally be subject to regular testing and maintenance under the licence and HMO regulations.
Regarding checking carbon monoxide alarms ‘on the day the tenancy begins’, pressing the test button is presumably sufficient for the regulations.
The above advice is simply about checking on the day the tenancy begins and does not replace any other regular maintenance and testing requirements.
Where there are no shared elements in a house, the tenant(s) will typically be responsible for regularly checking the smoke and carbon monoxide alarms themselves. It is recommended that they be checked monthly.
Repairing or replacing alarms
Following a report made by a tenant (or representative) to the landlord, if an alarm is found not to be in proper working order, the alarm must be repaired or replaced.
The landlord must determine if repair or replacement is necessary and carry out the work (if required) as soon as reasonably practicable.
Where a local authority has reasonable grounds to believe that a landlord is in breach of one or more duties, they must serve a remedial notice on the landlord.
The landlord may make representations regarding the notice within 28 days.
From 1 October 2022, the local authority must consider those representations. The notice is suspended until the local authority has considered the representations and decided whether to confirm or withdraw the notice.
The local authority must inform the landlord within seven days of making a decision, and if they fail to do so, the remedial notice is withdrawn.
If confirmed, the landlord (or representative) must complete the action contained in the notice within 21 days.
A landlord is not to be taken to be in breach of taking the necessary action if the landlord can show they have taken all reasonable steps to comply with the duty.
Suppose a tenant or occupier prevents the landlord from entering the premises. In that case, from 1 October 2022, the landlord will not have failed to have taken all reasonable steps solely because of a failure to bring legal proceedings to secure entry.
The .gov website contains more information about the amending regulations from October 2022.
For any tenancy granted in England from 1 October 2015, all equipped smoke and carbon monoxide alarms must be tested "on the day the tenancy begins". This document is a test certificate confirming that all prescribed alarms were checked on the day the tenancy commences and that all the alarms are in proper working order.