New guidance has been issued by the government so that landlords, tenants and agents alike know just where they stand with this update. The overarching aim of this amendment is to put the private rented sector and the social sector on equal footing when it comes to safety. As a landlord today, what do these changes actually mean for you and what steps will you need to take to comply? Let’s take a look.
Why have the regulations been amended?
The current regulations, which apply just to private landlords, were reviewed in 2018. This review found that the regulations had a positive impact on the number of alarms that were installed. The suggestion was that they should be extended to ensure that both the social and private sectors were working at the same level in terms of safety.
Research suggests that, at present, 95% of social housing associations already comply with the regulations that were introduced in 2015. This means that many are already on the same footing as private landlords.
As well as extending the 2015 regulations so that they cover social housing, the 2022 amendment also updates some of the rules that are already in place.
What are the rules that will need to be followed?
The amended regulation came into effect on 1st October 2022 and applies to all landlords in England. It states that, as of this date, landlords are required to:
- Install at least one smoke alarm on each storey where there’s a room being used as living accommodation. Private landlords were required to do this in 2015, but this has now been rolled out to cover the social sector too
- Install a carbon monoxide detector in any room that is classed as living accommodation and that has a fixed combustion appliance (this excludes gas cookers)
- Ensure that, when a tenant informs the landlord or agent of an issue, that any affected smoke alarms or carbon monoxide detectors are repaired or replaced
- The Housing Act 2004
- The Fire Safety Act 2021
- The Building Safety Act 2022
Will alarms need to be hard-wired?
Back in 2015, there was a sense of confusion surrounding the types of alarms that were required. Some interpreted the regulations as stating that these needed to be hard-wired with a battery backup. The guidance issued for the 2022 amendment does not state that this is the case at all. However, if you’re going to opt for battery-operated alarms, it’s best to use sealed units where the batteries can’t be removed.
While there is no stipulation regarding the hard wiring of an alarm, the alarms installed do have to meet the relevant British Standards:
- Smoke alarms - BS 5839-6
- Carbon monoxide alarms - BS 50291
What about alarm testing?
On the first day of a new tenancy, the landlord or agent needs to carry out checks to ensure that the alarms are present and that they are working without fault. A record needs to be made, and kept, to show that these checks took place.
If an alarm requires a new battery when the tenancy is underway, tenants are advised that this is something that they should be doing themselves. However, if changing the batteries doesn’t resolve the issue, the landlord or agent should be informed and they then become responsible for repairs or replacements when necessary.
Where should alarms be positioned?
While the regulations state the rooms and the storeys of a house that require alarms, they don’t specify exactly where they should be located. However, there is guidance to the effect that sale alarms should be fixed to ceilings in a circulation space. This can be interpreted as meaning halls and landings.
When it comes to carbon monoxide alarms, the guidance states that these should be at head height. They should be on a wall or a shelf and around 1-3 meters away from any potential sources of carbon monoxide.
What if a landlord fails to comply?
If a landlord fails to comply with the amended regulations, local authorities have the power to enforce them. Initially, a landlord will be issued a remedial notice. If they then fail to take action they can be fined up to £5,000.
What is meant by living accommodation?
When looking at the regulations, they refer to living accommodation. but it’s not overly clear what is meant by this. The way in which the government uses the term is to describe a room where its primary purpose is to live in or a room where a person spends a significant amount of time.
How about a fixed combustible device?
The government guidance provides the following definition:
“A fixed apparatus where fuel of any type is burned to generate heat”.
In terms of fuel, this covers gas, coal, wood and oil.
The one thing that is not included is a gas cooker. The reason for this is that these are already covered by separate legislation. This means that if you had a kitchen with a gas cooker and a gas boiler, a carbon monoxide alarm would be needed. However, if it was just the cooker and no boiler, this wouldn’t be the case.
How big will the impact of the new regulations be?
In reality, the majority of responsible landlords will already be complying with most, if not all, of these rules. Even when looking at the social sector, there is already a huge percentage that are complying with the existing legislation. While the updated rules can be welcomed as a way of improving safety, the practical, and financial, impact on landlords will be minimal.
If you have any questions on the legislation, or are looking for a new letting agent for your property, contact us for expert advice and guidance in complying as a Landlord.