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Smoke Detectors and Carbon Monoxide Alarms – Rental Property Regulations

Summarising the guidance - helping to keep your property compliant

We often get questions from Landlords and Tenants about the requirements around smoke and carbon monoxide alarms – placement, tests, batteries. This article is a condensed summary of the UK Government’s Guidance and it outlines the most common situations.

For Landlords, a basic overview of the requirements are:

  • Ensure that a smoke detector is placed on each story of a property where there is a room used for living accommodation – this includes sitting rooms, bedrooms and offices.

  • Place a carbon monoxide detector in any room where there is a fixed combustion appliance, like a combi-boiler – but, this excludes gas cookers.

  • Replace or repair carbon monoxide detectors once informed that they are faulty

What types of units are required?

The government does not stipulate what kinds of smoke and carbon monoxide detectors you need to place in a rental property but does require that your property is compliant with British Standards BS 5839-6

Where battery powered alarms are selected, alarms with ‘sealed for life’ batteries rather than alarms with replaceable batteries are the better option. We recommend Fire Angel units to our clients – they come with a guaranteed 10 year battery life.

Where should the units be located in the property?

Regarding the smoke detectors, the regulations do not stipulate exactly where the units should be placed but you do need to have at least one detector on each storey of the accommodation. Be sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions when installing the alarms. However, in general, smoke alarms should be fixed to the ceiling in a circulation space, i.e. a hall or a landing.

The carbon monoxide detectors should be installed in every room which is used as living accommodation containing a fixed combustion appliance (excluding gas cookers). Again, be sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions when installing them. In general, carbon monoxide alarms should be positioned at head height, either on a wall or shelf, approximately 1-3 metres away from a potential source of carbon monoxide.

What to do at the start of a new tenancy?

It is the Landlord’s responsibility to ensure that the alarms are installed in an effective way and working on the first day of a tenancy. This can be documented in a check-in inventory that is given to the Tenants on move-in day.

We always recommend that Landlords give Tenants 14 days to review the inventory document, allowing them to make changes (if they find any additional issues in the property). This gives the Tenants the opportunity to check the detectors for themselves – providing an additional layer of confirmation.

Who’s responsible for replacing the batteries?

If someone determines that a alarm is not responding to the test, then the first port of call should be for the Tenants to change the batteries in the unit. Obviously, this only applies to detectors that do not have a sealed, long life battery in them. If, after the batteries have been replaced with new ones, the unit is still not responding then it is the responsibility of the Landlord to replace and install a new alarm.

As a Landlord, if you are made aware of a dysfunctional detector and do not correct the issues then the local housing authority may serve a remedial notice. Failure to comply with each remedial notice can lead to a fine of up to £5,000. Fines will be applied per breach, rather than per landlord or property.

What should Landlords do if a Tenant will not allow access to check the alarms?

The existing regulations are clear that Landlords must take all reasonable steps to comply with a remedial notice but are not expected to go to court to gain access in order to be compliant. Landlords should be able to demonstrate that they have taken all reasonable steps to comply to Local Authorities.

For example, Landlords should write to their tenants to explain that it is a legal requirement to install the alarms and that it is for the tenant’s own safety. Landlords should try to arrange a time to visit that is convenient for the tenant, and keep a written record of access attempts to provide to the local housing authority if required.

Landlords should attempt to understand why tenants cannot or will not provide access and work with them to find a solution

If you require additional information, please see the Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarm (England) Regulations 2022.

These regulations should be considered alongside other relevant laws on fire and carbon monoxide safety in rented homes such as Housing Act 2004, the Fire Safety Act 2021 and the Building Safety Act 2022.

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