If you’re a landlord you need to act on new fire safety laws

Are you a landlord? If you are, you’ll soon be legally obliged to install working smoke and carbon monoxide (CO) alarms in your properties.
There can’t be many people who’d argue with this particular piece of legislation because the statistics speak for themselves. Did you know people are 4 times more likely to die in a fire in the home if there’s no working smoke alarm? It’s estimated this new legislation will help prevent around 26 deaths and 670 injuries a year. Smoke alarms are an incredibly cheap but effective way of saving lives. The average ongoing annual cost to landlords per property is £1.07. Over 90 % of all homes now have them installed.
When will the new legislation take effect? The new regulations will apply to all ‘specified tenancies’ – defined as when a person has or people have the right to occupy a residential premises and rent is payable – and will be effective from October 2015.

What will you need to do?

You’ll need to install a minimum of one smoke alarm on each floor of your property and test them at the start of every tenancy. You’ll also need to install carbon monoxide alarms in ‘high risk’ rooms – for example, in rooms where solid fuels are burnt. Battery operated appliances are acceptable although you may prefer to consider hard wired alternatives.
When it comes to testing your CO alarms be aware the test button only tests their electronics. It doesn’t check whether the sensor can detect carbon monoxide if it had to. There’s a simple, effective test kit on the market, Detectagas®, produced by Gas Safe Europe; it’s well worth the investment and could form part of your pre-tenancy checks.To help landlords, funding’s been made available to provide around 500,000 smoke alarms and 52,000 carbon monoxide detectors free of charge. They’re being distributed by local fire and rescue services so it’s worth getting in touch with them first to check if any are available.

Tips for fitting your smoke and CO alarms 

The legislation doesn’t require it but for maximum protection of people and your property, why not consider fitting detectors in all bedrooms? A recent survey highlighted that young people  - particularly teenagers - are slow to react to an alarm going off when they're asleep. Installing detectors directly in bedrooms could mean a quicker reaction if an alarm on an interlinked device activates.
Screw smoke alarms into the ceiling and as close as possible to the centre of the room. Try to fit them at least 30 centimetres away from any wall or light fitting.Position CO alarms close to potential sources of carbon monoxide. Ideally fit them at a horizontal distance of 1 to 3 metres away from the source and at least 1.5 metres from the ceiling if fitted on a wall.  It’s also worth locating them in bedrooms too.Don’t position either type of alarm close to windows or air vents.

What could happen if you don’t comply?

If you fail to install the necessary smoke and carbon monoxide alarms you’ll find yourself facing a £5,000 penalty. Local housing authorities are responsible for enforcing the regulations and they have the power to have alarms fitted and levy the penalty charge. But far worse is the fact that if you don’t comply you’re putting other people’s lives at risk.

Remember to test them

Once you’ve fulfilled your legal obligations by providing the alarms, go a step further and remind your tenants about the importance of regularly testing them to make sure the batteries are working. Smoke alarms and CO alarms offer vital time to escape a life-threatening situation and they need to work when it counts.
Even better, make sure they have an escape plan as well so if they’re alerted by the alarms they can get out quickly. It’ll take you just a few minutes to work out the best routes and to make new tenants aware of them - and it could save lives.

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