Safety for tenants in the private sector took centre stage when Parliament approved the Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarm (England) Regulations 2015.
The regulations are intended to reduce death and risk of injury from smoke or CO poisoning, and came into force on 1 October. From that date, all private-sector landlords in England are required to fit working smoke alarms on every floor of their residential properties, and CO alarms in all rooms containing a solid fuel-burning appliance. The landlord must also ensure the alarms are in working order at the start of a new tenancy.
Under the new rules, local authorities are responsible for enforcing the legislation and can issue non-compliant landlords with penalties of up to £5,000. Some help has been made available, with England’s 46 fire and rescue authorities distributing 447,000 free smoke alarms and 53,000 free CO alarms, in a £3 million government-funded scheme.
While the new measures do represent a step forward, critics including the All Party Parliamentary Carbon Monoxide Group (APPCOG) warn that they don’t go far enough. The regulations do not require CO alarms to be fitted in rooms with gas or oil appliances, for example, and will only affect private rented properties using solid fuel (just 8.2 per cent of the total rented properties).
England continues to lag behind Scotland and Northern Ireland when it comes to regulations regarding CO alarms. In Scotland, from December, all private landlords must install a CO alarm in a property that contains any fuel-burning appliances. In Northern Ireland, it’s been mandatory since 2012 to fit a CO alarm where a new or replacement combustion heating appliance is installed – including oil and gas – unless it’s solely a cooking appliance. This has also been a requirement in Scotland since 2103.
APPCOG has recommended that similar all-encompassing requirements should be introduced in England to protect private tenants across the UK.