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In November it was announced that the Department for Communities and Local Government would be reviewing the condition of housing in the private rented sector and would, as part of this review, look specifically at whether new rules are needed on installing smoke and carbon monoxide alarms.
Additionally, an amendment to the Energy Bill made in the House of Lords on 19th November has given the government the power to introduce a requirement for carbon monoxide and/or smoke alarms to be installed in privately rented homes. No decision will be made on this until the Department for Communities and Local Government review has had time to consult with interested parties in the housing sector such as landlords, housing associations and professional bodies.
At the moment, the only regulations that exist in relation to carbon monoxide are the requirement for landlords to ensure an annual gas safety check is carried out on all gas appliances, pipework and flues in their rented properties (subject to certain conditions). However, many landlords don’t realise that carbon monoxide can be produced by appliances fuelled with oil, wood or coal as well as other combustibles.
The impact on landlords would be relatively minimal if they were required to supply carbon monoxide and smoke detectors. These devices cost from as little as £10 each however, the real issue will be how to ensure tenants are replacing batteries and regularly testing the devices. Landlords would be reluctant to have to take on he burden of doing this, particularly when it is recommended that they are tested at least once a month. The other question would be accountability in the event of an incident if the alarm has been tampered with.
Some thought would need to go into any legislation requiring landlords to provide carbon monoxide and smoke alarms as it could potentially have a negative impact. Landlords might consider they can avoid having to undertake a safety check which costs approximately £50 if they install alarms. There would also need to be very clear rules over the type of alarm that can be fitted e.g. it must meet British Standards and have an audible alarm.
Finally, the other questions that would need to be asked include: Who would be responsible for fitting the alarms? Would landlords be happy to do this and, if so, would they necessarily install them in the correct locations in the home? Would they be required to install more than one alarm for larger homes? All these questions will have to be considered as part of the Department for Communities and Local Government consultation process.
It was also announced recently that from December 2013 it will be possible for courts to take into consideration the assets of landlords when determining a fine for failure to comply with regulations on gas safety checks. This could potentially lead to bigger fines but, with in excess of 50 people a year dying from carbon monoxide poisoning, it may help to deter rogue landlords from taking the risk.
It is reported that the House of Lords have been told of approximately 85000 complaints against landlords of which 60% were specifically in relation to unsafe gas and electricity installations. Chair of the Communities and Local Government Committee, Clive Betts said “I am pleased the Government is listening to the committee’s concerns about the dangers of carbon monoxide. Much more must be done to tackle the threat of the silent killer. Carbon monoxide detectors are inexpensive and save lives”.
For more information about installing carbon monoxide alarms see our guide to carbon monoxide alarms.
For more information about the effects of carbon monoxide poisoning see our carbon monoxide poisoning infographic.
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