In an encouraging step towards making landlords more responsible for the safety of their tenants, as of 1 October this year new safety standards will require carbon monoxide alarms, as well as smoke alarms, in the vast majority of rented properties. The Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarm (England) Regulations 2015 will make it a requirement for landlords to make sure that there is some way to ensure carbon monoxide can be detected – it’s no longer up to tenants.
Why the legislation?
Unfortunately there have been deaths from carbon monoxide poisoning – 677 over the past two decades and almost 5,000 ‘near misses.’ Spooked by this, the government has now made it a requirement to ensure there’s a way of testing for this lethal substance in all rented properties.
Can’t you smell it?
No, carbon monoxide is odourless, it’s also colourless and it’s flammable too so it’s a really nasty and insidious substance. It’s often called the ‘silent killer’ because there’s no way of knowing that it’s leaking into your environment without an alarm.
What are the symptoms?
There are many symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning but it is so difficult to spot, as they could also be attributable to many other conditions. Fatigue, weakness, confusion, vertigo, memory loss, headaches, feeling light headed, being sick, feeling nauseous and having seizures are all symptoms. Carbon monoxide poisoning is serious even if not fatal as it can lead to brain damage and paralysis too.
Although you can’t see carbon monoxide, sometimes you can see the damage it causes, which is a warning sign. Look out for dark staining around appliances, a lazy yellow or orange cooker flame (it should be blue) and an increase in window condensation.
What’s the current situation?
There was no previous requirement for carbon monoxide alarms to be installed in rented properties. All properties that were built after 1992 required a smoke alarm and this has also been extended to properties built before 1992. That makes it now a requirement for all rented properties to have both working smoke alarms and working carbon monoxide alarms.
Are there any exceptions?
Yes, the requirements don’t apply to landlords sharing accommodation with their tenants, registered providers of social housing or a landlord granting a right of occupation for seven years or more.
What happens if landlords don’t comply?
This is a big change as it’s the first time that this has been made part of the landlord’s duty of care. However, it’s likely that local authorities that are enforcing the new changes will be quite strict. Local authorities can hand out remedial notices to landlords who don’t provide these alarms and there is also the option of fining landlords £5,000 per property.
Who maintains the alarms?
We think landlords will ask that tenants sign a statement when they move in confirming that alarms are working and have been tested in front of them (so, don’t sign this unless that has actually happened). After that, tenants will need to do the routine testing and notify landlords of any issues. If alarms don’t work or need replacing or repairing this remains the landlord’s responsibility.