Thursday, 16 September 2021

‘Alarming news’ is good for both landlords and tenants

NEW legislation on smoke and carbon monoxide alarms has just come into effect (as of October

NEW legislation on smoke and carbon monoxide alarms has just come into effect (as of October 1). So if you’re a landlord or tenant, make sure you’re all fired up to comply, says LUCY BOON

BRANDON LEWIS, the minister of state for housing and planning, says landlords are now required by law to ensure working alarms are installed in their rental properties in England.

A great move for the private landlord sector, which has rapidly grown over the last few years and shows no signs of slowing down.

The government hopes that the move will help prevent up to 26 deaths and 670 injuries a year.

The move is part of a wider scheme to ensure there are sufficient measures in place to protect public safety, while at the same time avoiding regulation which would push up rents and restrict the supply of homes.

The allocation of funding to fire and rescue authorities to offer free smoke and carbon monoxide alarms to local landlords has also been initiated.

Mr Lewis said: “In 1988 just eight per cent of homes had a smoke alarm installed — now it’s over 90 per cent. The vast majority of landlords offer a good service and have installed smoke alarms in their homes, but I’ve changed the law to ensure every tenant can be given this important protection.

“But with working smoke alarms providing the vital seconds needed to escape a fire, I urge all tenants to make sure they regularly test their alarms to ensure they work when it counts. Testing regularly remains the tenant’s responsibility.”

Statistics issued in 2012 by the Department for Communities and Local Government showed a person is four times more likely to die in a fire if there isn’t a smoke alarm that works on the premises.

The changes to the law mean landlords are required to install smoke alarms on every floor of their property, and test them at the start of every tenancy. Landlords also need to install carbon monoxide alarms in high-risk rooms — such as those where a solid fuel heating system is installed.

Those who fail to install smoke and carbon monoxide alarms face sanctions — and even a £5,000 civil penalty. The change brings private rented properties into line with existing building regulations that already require newly built homes to have hard-wired smoke alarms installed.

Cara Wrightson, property manager at Savills in Henley, said: “Under the DCLG’s private rented sector code, there is already a requirement to have both smoke alarms and carbon monoxide alarms fitted in rental properties.

“However, from this month landlords will be responsible for ensuring a working smoke alarm is fitted on every level of a rental property at the beginning of every new tenancy [this does not include renewals] and that a fully operational carbon monoxide alarm is fitted in every room containing a solid fuel burning appliance — ie a room which contains an open fire, solid-fuel cooker, room heater, multi-fuel stove/fire and gravity feed boilers.

“Failure to do so could result in a civil penalty fine of up to £5,000. If a property is managed by Savills, we will undertake these checks on behalf of our landlords. For non-managed properties, this responsibility remains with the landlord.”

Logically, tenants will have obligations too. Once a tenanted property is fully compliant, the responsibility for regularly checking that alarms are in full working order, and for changing the batteries, may lie with the tenant if their tenancy agreement contracts them to.

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