The Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarm (England) Regulations 2015 (“the Regulations”) are currently being considered by Parliament and if approved, from October 2015, landlords will be required by law to ensure working smoke and carbon monoxide alarms are installed in residential properties in the private rented sector in England.

The Regulations set obligations on landlords to ensure that:

  1. A smoke alarm is installed on each storey of the premises that are wholly or partly used as living accommodation;
  2. A carbon monoxide alarm is installed in any room that is used wholly or partly as living accommodation and contains a solid fuel burning appliance; and 
  3. Smoke and carbon monoxide alarms are in proper working order at the start of any new tenancy. A new tenancy means a tenancy granted on or after 1 October 2015 but will not include a tenancy granted pursuant to an agreement entered into before 1 October 2015 or a periodic shorthold tenancy that arises under section 5 of the Housing Act 1988

When determining a storey or room, a bathroom or lavatory is to be treated as a room used as living accommodation and therefore a half landing containing a bathroom or toilet alone, would be counted as a storey and require a smoke alarm.

The Regulations apply to a tenancy, licence, lease, sub-lease or sub-tenancy of residential premises that grants one or more people the right to occupy the premises as their only or main residence. Longer leases of over seven years and accommodation shared with the landlord are excluded and the obligations on landlords of Houses in Multiple Occupation are dealt with under a separate regime.  However, it is of course, regardless of the form of occupation, in both the landlord’s and tenant’s interests to have the alarms installed.

How will these regulations be enforced?

Local housing authorities will be given the power to serve remedial notices to any landlord they have “reasonable grounds to believe” is not complying with the Regulations.   

Failure to carry out appropriate remedial action within 28 days of service of the notice, will leave landlords open to a fine of up to £5,000 per property and if the landlord fails to take the necessary action, the local authority must, with the tenant’s consent, arrange for the work to be undertaken. The landlord can request the serving authority to review the remedial notice and they will have a right to appeal. 

Going forward, landlords should consider incorporating a requirement in tenancy agreements for tenants to regularly check the working of the detectors, replace batteries as required and report any faults to them as soon as possible. 

England’s fire and rescue authorities are expected to support private landlords to meet their new responsibilities with the provision of free alarms.  However, building regulations already require that properties constructed after June 1992 have a mains powered, interconnected smoke alarm system installed and therefore, many landlords may find their smoke alarm provision already meets the new requirements, but now is clearly a good time to make these checks.