Smoke and Carbon Regulations consultation: What is the Government planning?

November 29, 2021

Smoke alarmA Government response to the recent consultation of the 2015 Smoke and Carbon Regulations has been released by the Government this week.

This consultation shows what the Government will add to the regulations. The questions below refer to the consultation document which gives greater detail on the Government’s plans. 

Although no time frame is given as to when these policies will be introduced into the regulations, it is likely to be at some point in early 2022.

Below we look at the Governments response to the consultation which can be found here

Installing CO alarms where fixed combustion appliances are used

Question 17 of the consultation concerns the requirement to install a CO alarm in any room used as living accommodation where a fixed combustion appliance is used (excluding gas cookers), for both private and social landlords. In addition, it also concerns having a CO alarm when a fixed combustion appliance (excluding gas cookers) is installed in homes of any tenure.

  • Currently the regulations only require landlords in England to install a carbon monoxide alarm in any room used as living accommodation where solid fuel is used. However, 84% of respondents agreed with the proposal, citing the safety of both the inhabitants and the property as the main reason they agree. The Government has conceded that gas cookers were considered to be within scope, yet believe that this is not a significant enough hazard.

The Government has agreed that this is a necessary step towards gas safety and this will be introduced into the regulations soon.

Update on landlord’s obligations

Question 10 within the consolation was on the proposal to amend the regulations to create a legal obligation for landlords to repair or replace smoke and CO alarms when informed that they are faulty.

  • We suspect this is something most landlords already do! Whilst tenants are expected to check fire alarms and fit new batteries into alarms, it seems only sensible that landlords have an obligation to repair and replace them. This is replicated in the respondent’s reply, where 95% of the respondents agree with the proposal.

The Government have agreed to this and will place a legal obligation on landlords to replace or repair alarms, once informed that they are faulty.

How to best assist tenants in testing alarms

Question 7 of the consultation sought views on the best way to support residents to test alarms.

  • A proposal to legally obligate landlords to perform routine testing was asked but was rejected by 63% of respondents. Respondents recognised the tenant’s right to privacy as well as acknowledging it can be difficult to gain access for tests. A few suggested that a compromise could be to do the tests during the gas safety checks which may be a good idea for landlords.

The Government in response will update the guidance document and include examples of how landlords can support vulnerable residents to test alarms as best practice. The Government has also supported campaigns that remind tenants to perform monthly fire safety tests.

Social Landlords must place a smoke alarm on each floor

Question 1 of the consultation proposes a requirement for social landlords to ensure at least one smoke alarm is installed on each storey of their homes is necessary.

  • This already applies to the private rented sector but it was asked whether this would be a good idea for the social sector side. A majority of 92% of respondents agreed, citing improved safety and clarification of the Government’s safety guidelines as the reason for agreeing.

The Government has written that they agree on this point and that this will be introduced into the regulations soon.

Guidance document to be updated regarding alarm standards

Question 3 of the consultation regards the updating of the guidance document as it has been perceived to be unclear and needs greater clarification in general.

  • This is a question that is based more on product quality rather than Government regulations. There are many fire and CO alarms on the market which can make it difficult to know which product is the best and whether it fills the Government’s requirements. A document that prescribes the minimum standards of a CO or fire alarm seems like a wise move. 91% of respondents agreed with this proposal. In addition, greater clarity over landlords and tenants’ obligations towards’s fire safety will also be included. 

The Government have admitted this is an area of the regulations which will need to be clarified soon.

Financial Burdens caused by the update on LA’s

Question 16 Sought views from local authority officials on any new financial or operational burdens the proposals would create on their enforcement function for local authorities

  • This affects landlords in the sense of how local authorities will seek to enforce these new proposals. Fortunately, most of the Local Authority respondents argued that the cost to enforce these regulations for private and social landlords will be minimal. Local authorities will be investigating complaints by tenants that have already been made, rather than investigating individual properties and so the cost will be low.

The Government has said they will consider cost planning as part of any new updates to the regulations.

Summary

These are the significant regulation changes for private landlords:

  • private landlords will be obliged to ensure a carbon monoxide alarm is installed in any room in their homes with a fixed combustion appliance (excluding gas cookers)
  • landlords will be legally obliged to repair or replace alarms once informed that they are faulty (testing will remain the resident’s responsibility)

These will be added to the Smoke and Carbon Monoxide regulations 2015. In addition, the guidance document will also subsequently be updated with ways to support tenants with the upkeep of fire safety during the tenancy.

Note that the Government plans on adding this to the regulations as soon as practical. So, landlords will not have any grace period to get their property compliant. You are warned!

The full consultation can be found here

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