From 1 October 2015 new regulations will require landlords to ensure the fire safety of their tenants as well as offer protection against carbon monoxide poisoning.
What is happening?
The new regulations require that from 1 October 2015, landlords will have to install a smoke alarm on every floor of their property and a carbon monoxide alarm in rooms containing a solid fuel appliance. This is a minimum requirement and should be determined following a (fire) risk assessment of all your properties.
Landlords will be required to check that alarms are working at the start of every new tenancy and no doubt tenants will notify landlords whenever alarms appear to be faulty.
Enforcement of the Regulations is the responsibility of the local housing authority, which can require landlords to fit alarms and, if the landlord fails to do so, has the power to arrange for them to be fitted. There is a power to levy a penalty charge on the landlord. The penalty charge is limited to £5000.
Who will be affected?
The new regulations will apply to all ‘specified tenancies’, i.e. residential premises where a person or persons have a right to occupy the premises and rent is payable.
Who is not affected?
The regulations specifically exclude registered social landlords from these obligations. Certain types of properties and arrangements are also excluded, e.g. Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs), lodgers, long-leases, student halls of residence, hostels and refuges, care homes, hospitals and hospices (however these types of premises typically have a similar or higher standard of safety provision already).
Other legislation applies to many of the properties and arrangements that have been excluded.
Further guidance will be issued by the Government and will cover a range of issues, such as testing, including hard-wired systems, clarity on which tenancies are affected and issues of overlap and interaction between these new regulations and others, such as the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order.
What else can I do
If you rent a property then there are already provisions in the Consumer Protection Act and Housing Act that require you to make them safe. The first thing you need to do is a risk assessment. Identify the hazards in the property, who could be harmed, what measures are needed to reduce the risk, how to manage the risk and maintain the controls. Finally it’s always better to record the fact that you’ve done it!
For simple properties you should be able to do this yourself, with many fire services offering free downloadable templates to assist (try downloadable fire risk assessment template in your search engine). Further help and advice is available at http://www.hse.gov.uk and https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/fire-safety-law-and-guidance-documents-for-business. For more complex properties or where you don’t feel comfortable doing this work then you need the assistance of a competent fire risk assessor, however you will still be responsible for the assessment.
The Chief Fire Officers Association Blue Watch have a handy online subscription solution that walks you through the process with a Home Safety MOT, covering areas such as Gas, Carbon Monoxide, Fire, Security and Electrical safety, it also provides context sensitive help and allows you to store and amend your solution securely online. Register at http://www.bluewatch.co.uk/ or alternatively, on request, Blue Watch will send out an assessor who will carry out a review of the property for you.
I’ve heard there are free alarms available?
Ahead of the regulations coming into force, nearly 500,000 smoke alarms and 52,000 carbon monoxide detectors have been given to local fire and rescue services by the Government to distribute to landlords for free.
Each fire and rescue service has been allocated a number of alarms based upon the landlords in their area. They will be making these free alarms available soon and landlords are advised to contact their local Services directly to find out how to access their supply of alarms.
If you aren’t successful in getting enough free alarms or you just want to purchase the same alarms as the majority of services are providing now at a 20% discount from the Blue Watch shop http://www.bluewatchshop.co.uk/, simply enter ‘Propertycheck’ in the ‘offer code’ box at checkout.