Addressing the Silent Killers

The Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarm (England) Regulations 2015 will come into force on 1 October 2015. The Regulations, which only apply in England, impose a duty upon private sector landlords to install and check smoke and carbon monoxide alarms at any property used in part or as a whole as a dwelling which are let under a new tenancy on or after 1 October 2015.

Under the Regulations

  • a smoke alarm must be fitted to each storey of the premises upon which a room which is used wholly or partly as living accommodation. The Regulations make clear that a "room"includes a hall or a landing, together with any bathroom or lavatory. 
  • a carbon monoxide alarm is in any room of the premises which is used wholly or partly as living accommodation and which also contains a solid fuel burning combustion appliance, such as a wood burning stove, open fire and solid fuel oven. 

In addition to ensuring that the premises contain such alarms, a landlord is also obliged to carry out checks to ensure that those alarms are in proper working order on the day the tenancy begins. 

The Regulations do not apply where a tenancy is being renewed or in relation to statutory periodic tenancies arising from fixed term tenancies that commence prior to 1 October 2015. It is important to note also that the Regulations will apply only to private sector landlords; social housing landlords are exempt under Regulations. 

Enforcement of the Regulations will be carried out by the local authority, presumably after a tenant has notified the local authority of the absence of alarms. On being made aware of an alleged breach of the Regulations, a local authority will be required to serve a remedial notice within 21 days upon the landlord. If the landlord fails to take steps to comply with the notice, the landlord can be required to pay a penalty charge up to a maximum of £5,000. 

The Regulations enable a landlord to avoid liability for failing to comply with a remedial notice; if a landlord can show that he or she has taken all reasonable steps (the Regulations make clear that a Landlord will not be required to issue proceedings to achieve access to the property) to comply with the remedial notice, then they will not be deemed to be in breach of the remedial notice. This is, it appears, intended to cover those situations where a remedial notice is served upon a landlord requiring the landlord to install or check the smoke and/or carbon monoxide alarm but where the tenant refuses to allow access to the landlord for the purpose of doing so. 

The vast majority of properties let by the private sector already contain smoke and carbon monoxide alarms and as such the Regulations are unlikely to have a significant impact on most Landlords.   Whilst some may see the Regulations as another example of interference by the State in the private landlord sector, it is difficult to argue against the spirit of the Regulations given the intention is to save lives.

Posted on: 24/09/2015

This article is for general guidance only. It provides useful information in a concise form. Action should not be taken without obtaining specific legal advice.

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