On 14 September 2015, parliament approved the Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarm (England) Regulations 2015. Therefore it is imperative that landlords act now to ensure that their properties conform to the Regulations by 1 October 2015 as there will be no grace period.
Under the Regulations, private sector landlords are required to install:
- at least one smoke alarm on every storey of a property on which there is a room being used wholly or partly as living accommodation; and
- a carbon monoxide alarm in any room used wholly or partly as living accommodation which contains a “solid fuel” burning combustion appliance.
A “room” includes a hall or a landing, and a bathroom or lavatory is to be treated as a room which is used as living accommodation. In relation to carbon monoxide alarms, guidance provided by the Department for Communities and Local Government (the “Guidance”) indicates that ‘solid fuel’ is coal or wood – thus the requirement would not apply to gas or oil appliances.
The Regulations do not specify a particular type of alarm nor where alarms should be placed. However, the Guidance recommends that landlords should make informed decisions as to the best alarm for their properties and tenants.
The Regulations apply to any tenancy of residential premises in England. While there are some exemptions (i.e. accommodation which is shared with a landlord), any landlord letting on an Assured Shorthold Tenancy must ensure that they comply with the Regulations.
The 1 October 2015 deadline applies to all existing tenancies as well as for any new tenancies which commence after that date. Landlords must ensure that alarms are working on the first day of a tenancy (i.e. the date on which the tenant is entitled to possession), following which it is for tenants to ensure that the devices are working during the tenancy.
Enforcement will be undertaken by local authorities who can impose a civil penalty in the form of a fine of up to £5,000 where a landlord fails to comply with the Regulations.
Where a local authority has reasonable grounds to believe that a landlord has not complied with the Regulations, the authority will issue a remedial notice requiring a landlord to fit and/or test alarms within 28 days, failing which, the local authority must (if the occupier consents), arrange for alarms to be fitted and/or tested.
There has been concern over the lack of notice for landlords in relation to the coming into force of the regulations – the issue was even debated in the House of Lords the day the Regulations were passed. However, as was pointed out in the House of Lords, a landlord will have 28 days from receiving a remedial notice to remedy any situation before action can be taken. Provided that a landlord complies within the 28 days’ enforcement period, no fine can be levied.
Nonetheless, it is suggested that landlords act now rather than risk being forced to act after 1 October 2015.
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