Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarms
We have had a number of helpline calls over the last few days regarding the new regulations relating to smoke and carbon monoxide alarms so we thought it was about time that we put out a blog to answer some of the frequently asked questions.
The government has announced that landlords will soon be required by law to install working smoke and carbon monoxide alarms in their rented properties and that section 150 of the Energy Act 2013 would come into force from 11 March 2015.
Section 150 (1) of the Act states that the government can make regulations which impose the duty on landlords that ‘during any period when the premises are occupied under a tenancy –
- the premises are equipped with a required alarm (or required alarms), and
- checks are made by or on behalf of the landlord in accordance with the regulations to ensure that any such alarm remains in proper working order.’
Section 150 (2) of the Act defines ‘required alarm’ only as a smoke alarm or carbon monoxide alarm.
The regulations which are referred to in the Act, the proposed Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarm (England) Regulations 2015, are currently only available as a draft. It is expected that the Regulations will take effect from October 2015. We have outlined a number of key points from the Regulations below, but please note that these will not be confirmed until the Regulations are approved later in the year.
What is the requirement on landlords?
Regulation 3(1) defines the ‘relevant landlord’ upon whom the duty is imposed as the immediate landlord in respect of a specified tenancy and excludes registered providers of social housing.
Regulation 4 sets out what the specific duties of the landlord will be during any period beginning on or after 1 October 2015 where the premises are occupied under a tenancy. A smoke alarm will need to be fitted on each storey of the property where there is a room used wholly or partly as living accommodation. A carbon monoxide alarm will need to be fitted in any room which is used wholly or partly as living accommodation and contains a solid fuel burning combustion appliance. For the purposes of the above, bathrooms and lavatories are included in the definition of a room that is used as living accommodation and a ‘room’ includes a hall or landing.
Checks will also need to be made by or on behalf of the landlord to ensure that each alarm is in proper working order on the day the tenancy begins if it is a new tenancy.
Regulation 4(4) defines the term ‘new tenancy’ and confirms that this duty only applies to tenancies granted on or after 1 October 2015 and does not include:
- tenancies granted by an agreement entered into prior to 1 October 2015;
- statutory periodic tenancies which arise at the end of a fixed term assured shorthold tenancy; or
- any extensions entered into a the end of an earlier tenancy where the landlord and the tenant have not changed and the premises being let are the same or substantially the same as those let under the earlier agreement.
Under Regulation 5, if the local housing authority has reason to believe that the landlord has not complied with their duties set out in the Regulations, they must serve a remedial notice on the landlord setting out which duties it believes the landlord has failed to comply with and what action should be taken. The notice will require the landlord to take action within 28 days of the date on which the notice was served. If the landlord does not agree with the contents of the notice, they can submit a written appeal within that 28 day period.
Regulation 6(1) states that if a landlord is served with a remedial notice, they must take the action specified within the notice within the 28 days. Under Regulation 7(1) if the landlord fails to comply with the terms of the notice, the local housing authority will arrange for an authorised person to take the action specified in the notice, but only with the consent of the occupier of the premises (Regulation 7(1) and (4)).
A landlord will not be in breach if they can show that they have taken all reasonable steps, other than legal proceedings, to comply with the terms of the notice (Regulation 6(2)).
Under Regulation 8, if the local housing authority is satisfied that the landlord has failed to comply with the terms of the remedial notice, they can impose a penalty charge which cannot exceed £5,000. The landlord does have a write to request a review of the penalty charge and can appeal it on various grounds (Regulation 11(2)) to the First-tier Tribunal if they do not agree with the local authority’s decision.
As we have said above, these Regulations will not be in force until October 2015, and we will be sending out another blog closer to the time to confirm what the provisions and remind you of the imminent changes. Until then, it is always best practice to ensure that any rented properties have adequate working smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors to ensure the safety of the tenant.