A landlord's guide to smoke and carbon monoxide alarms

This comprehensive guide gives landlords important information that ensures rental properties are equipped with life-saving smoke and carbon monoxide (CO) alarms. Understanding legal requirements and best practice for installation and maintenance is crucial to fostering a safe environment for tenants and minimizing the risk of fines, accidents or litigation.

The Vital Role of Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarms

Enhanced Fire Safety

Smoke alarms provide an early warning system during fires, giving tenants precious time to evacuate safely. Early detection can significantly reduce the risk of property damage and even save lives.

Legal Compliance

It is illegal not to have a smoke alarm. The Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarm (England) Regulations 2015 states the following:

“Private sector landlords are required from 1 October 2015 to have at least one smoke alarm installed on every storey of their properties and a carbon monoxide alarm in any room containing a solid fuel burning appliance (e.g. a coal fire, wood burning stove).”

Failure to comply with this legislation can result in hefty fines for landlords.

Reduced Risk of Injuries and Deaths

Functional smoke and carbon monoxide alarms significantly reduce the risk of fire-related deaths and injuries for tenants by providing a crucial early warning system.

Property Protection

Early detection of fires minimizes potential damage to your property, saving you from costly repairs and replacements.

Is it illegal not to have a carbon monoxide alarm?

Carbon monoxide is a colourless, odourless and tasteless gas that can be fatal if undetected. It happens when carbon-based fuels like coal, wood, oil or gas burn incompletely. In England, current law means that they have to be installed in properties with solid fuel-burning combustion appliances. This means appliances like gas heaters, boilers and ovens.

Where should smoke and carbon monoxide alarms be fitted?

Smoke alarms

Smoke alarms should ideally be mounted on the ceiling in a central location of each floor, away from walls and light fixtures. This ensures optimal smoke detection and minimizes false alarms triggered by cooking fumes. Ensure alarms are easily audible in bedrooms, particularly with closed doors.

Carbon monoxide alarms

Carbon monoxide alarms should be installed in the rooms where they are needed. If the property only has one carbon monoxide alarm, they should be in the room where the appliance is situated, in the main bedroom or in the hallway outside sleeping areas (e.g., hallways). Maintain a 15-foot distance from fuel-burning appliances to avoid interference with normal operation. Avoid dead air spaces, windows, and doors, which could hinder carbon monoxide detection.

Use a qualified Part P or Gas Safe Engineer to install the alarms. This ensures professionalism and compliance, and maximum safety and adherence to regulations. Their expertise ensures proper installation and minimizes the risk of malfunctions. If installing the alarms yourself, make sure a qualified tradesperson verifies them.

Landlord's Responsibilities

It is the landlord’s responsibility to ensure carbon monoxide alarms and smoke alarms are in working order at the beginning of each tenancy. They should provide tenants with a document or record as proof of this check. Every time a landlord visits a property they should test the alarms are in working order.

Tenant's Responsibilities

A tenant should test the alarms in the property at least once a month, following the manufacturer's instructions. Vacuum them gently with a soft brush attachment to remove dust that can impede the sensor function. Replace batteries when needed (unless they are ten-year alarms). Tenants should inform landlords of any malfunctioning alarms immediately for prompt repairs or replacements.

Which type of alarm should you buy?

Optical smoke alarms are becoming the industry standard because they are less likely to trigger false alarms than ionisation types. Optical smoke alarms are better at detecting slow-burning fires. Ionisation smoke alarms contain a radioactive source in the sensor, so are gradually being phased out. Heat alarms are triggered when temperatures inside a room reach 55°C, so are installed in kitchens, garages and dusty environments. Combined smoke and carbon monoxide alarms are also available.

Fostering a Safe and Secure Living Environment

Smoke and carbon monoxide alarms are essential safety measures in rental properties. By understanding the regulations and following best practice for installation and maintenance, landlords can create a safer living environment for tenants. This proactive approach not only protects your tenants, demonstrating a commitment to tenant wellbeing but also minimizes the risk of legal repercussions and property damage.

Prioritizing tenant safety is an investment in a rental business's success. At Felicity J. Lord we can help landlords stay compliant with legislation. Contact us for more information.