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Alarm bells ring over tenant’s safety

Statistics reveal that between April 2013 and March 2014 97 people died and 1900 were injured in domestic fires affecting properties where no smoke alarm was present.

As a result The Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarm (England) Regulations 2015 came into force last month. These regulations make it obligatory for landlords to fit smoke and carbon monoxide alarms in all privately rented properties

From 1st October 2015 private sector landlords are require to

  • Have at least one smoke alarm installed on every storey of their properties
  • Install a carbon monoxide alarm in every room containing a solid fuel burning appliance (eg a coal fire, wood burning stove)

Landlord responsibilities

Landlords will need to ensure that the alarms are working properly at the start of each new tenancy. Those who fail to install smoke and carbon monoxide alarms could face up to a £5000 civil penalty. If a landlord is in breach of the regulations the local authority can issue a notice requiring the landlord to fit the alarms within 28 days.

The regulation is in line with the governments drive to protect the vulnerable who are exploited by landlords and to improve living standards in the private rental sector.

It is estimated that the installation of alarms could help prevent more than 25 deaths and nearly 700 injuries a year. According to the Housing Minister Brandon Lewis, ‘people are at least four times likely to die in a fire in the home if there is no working smoke alarm’.

The legislation in my view a vital step towards ensuring tenants safety. The prospect of a hefty fine should prompt landlords to comply, particularly as smoke and carbon monoxide alarms very cheap. One would assume the burden of a £5000 fine will outweigh the cost of a £25.00 alarm.

Existing and new tenants – be aware

One of the key points about these regulations is that they apply to both existing and new tenancies, meaning that there is an obligation on landlords to not only fit the alarms in new tenancies but to ensure all properties are where the tenancy started before 1st October 2015.

There has been very little publicity surrounding these new regulations despite parliament bringing them into force very quickly. More needs to be done to not only make landlords aware of the law but more importantly to ensure that it is complied with. In reality how will this be policed? By adding to already overburdened local authorities are these regulations going to simply fall by the wayside due to lack of enforcement? Maybe the answer is for the responsibility to be on the Housing Ombudsman? Or failing that perhaps consideration ought to be given to establishing a separate body who would ensure landlord compliance and the enforcement of penalties