2.18 Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarms
The Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarm (England) Regulations 2015 affect almost every rented property (including existing tenancies) and commenced on 1 October 2015.
2.18.1 Smoke Alarms
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 which is just used for access only, that won’t be counted as a storey though.
There is no definition as to what is a suitable smoke alarm for the purpose of the regulations but in a regular family house, the best ones to fit would be either a mains interlinked with battery backup or a 10 year battery type because in the end 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 fit a smoke alarm is on the highest point (normally ceiling) in a hallway leading to an escape route. In a regular 2 storey house, this would mean installing one on the ground floor and one on the first floor hallway by the stairs.
2.18.2 Carbon Monoxide Alarms
The regulations also require that a carbon monoxide alarm is equipped in any room which is used wholly or partly as living accommodation and contains a solid fuel burning combustion appliance.
Note: a CO alarm is required to be fitted in a “room” (not a storey) and only where there is a “solid fuel burning combustion appliance” (i.e. rooms containing an open fire, log burning stove, etc.)
According to guidance issued by the Department for Communities and Local Government, a non-functioning purely decorative fireplace would not constitute a solid fuel burning combustion appliance.
2.18.3 Checking Alarms
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.
This applies to both the smoke and carbon monoxide alarms.
On 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 checking only needs to be done on a new tenancy which means a tenancy granted on or after 1st October 2015, but does not include –
- a tenancy granted in pursuance of an agreement entered into before 1 October 2015;
- a statutory periodic tenancy which arises on the coming to an end of a fixed term shorthold tenancy;
- a renewal tenancy where the landlord, tenant and premises let are the same (or substantially the same) as previously let.
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), 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) test a manual call point which is on the same zone as the relevant smoke alarms. Smoke spray can be used but only if you are competent in carrying out that type of test and spray shouldn’t be used on every occasion (seek advice). If the sounders do not operate as they should immediately seek advice from a competent fire alarm engineer
- the regulations do not apply to licensable HMOs so the licence conditions should be consulted and the alarm would normally be subject to regular testing and maintenance under the licence and HMO regulations in any event.
In respect of 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 normally be responsible for regularly checking the smoke and carbon monoxide alarms themselves. It is recommend they be checked monthly.