Landlords will soon be legally obliged to install carbon monoxide and smoke alarms in their property portfolio, improving the safety of their tenants and minimising the risks gas appliances pose for private renters.
It is thought that this move will save up to 26 people’s lives every year and prevent as many as 670 injuries in England alone, and possibly up to 36 deaths and 1,375 injuries across the UK. Landlords will be able to receive advice, assistance and free alarms from fire and rescue services.
Smoke alarms will be required on every floor of the tenancy, and will have to be tested at the beginning of every tenancy. Carbon monoxide alarms will be obligatory in ‘high-risk’ room,s such as those that contain solid-fuel heating systems. Landlords that do not install smoke and carbon monoxide alarms will face sanctions, including civil penalties of up to £5,000.
The new legislation is set to take effect on 10th October this year, subject to Parliamentary approval, and form part of wider government ambitions to protect the safety of tenants and reduce the number of home emergencies without impacting the supply of accommodation or increasing rent.
According to Housing Minister Brandon Lewis, only 8% of homes had a smoke alarm in 1988, but nowadays this is higher than 90%. Figures from the English Housing Survey suggest that for privately rented homes, this figure is 82%, indicating that safety standards in these households are slightly worse than the national average.
Most landlords provide smoke alarms in their rental accommodation, Mr Lewis noted, but said he is amending regulations to ensure every tenant receives such “important protection”.
Working smoke detectors provide people with “vital seconds” when they need to escape a fire, he said, and urged all tenants to regularly test their alarms, as these tests will remain their responsibility. Stephen Williams, Communities Minister, pointed out that people are more than four times as likely to die in a house fire if they do not have a working smoke alarm.
He explained that the government intends to develop a “bigger, better and safer” private-rented sector, and that protecting tenants through carbon monoxide and smoke alarms is a “key part” of this.
The proposed requirements would bring the private rental sector in line with existing building regulations – all new-build homes must now have hard-wired smoke alarms.
Support for tougher landlord regulations
The proposals have received wide-ranging support from organisations in a variety of sectors.
The British Property Federation (BPF), for instance, hailed the plans, and said they were necessary to force a small number of landlords to bring their properties up to standard. Most landlords do all they can to ensure their tenants’ comfort and safety, but making smoke and carbon monoxide alarms mandatory will provide landlords with “clarity” and give tenants “peace of mind”, the organisation said.
BPF Director of Policy Ian Fletcher said installing these alarms is “quick, cheap and easy”, and it therefore “makes sense” to make them mandatory.
Residential Landlords Association (RLA) Chairman Alan Ward said his organisation has “long called” for a secure, legal and safe private rented sector, and that it “campaigned hard for” this policy.
Mandatory smoke and carbon monoxide alarms are a “key part” of the RLA’s manifesto, he said, calling the proposed funding for free alarms “particularly welcome”.
Chief Fire Officers’ Association Home Safety Lead said it is “essential” for policymakers to ensure that parliamentary procedures and politics don’t delay the enforcement of this “life-saving move”.
A ten-year sealed alarm costs approximately £15, he remarked, saying that the general public and organisations representing tenants and landlords “widely” support the proposals.
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