Smoke and carbon monoxide alarms mandatory for RP landlords from 1 October 2022
From 1 October 2022, the requirement for private landlords to install smoke and carbon monoxide alarms in homes that are let on tenancies will be extended to registered providers of social housing (RPs).
The Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarm (Amendment) Regulations 2022 (the 2022 Regulations), which were made on 27 June 2022, amend the Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarm (England) Regulations 2015 (the 2015 Regulations) to extend the current duties, and, for the first time, impose these duties on RP landlords who had been specifically exempted from the existing regime.
The 2022 Regulations follow a Government consultation on extending the duties to the social rented sector, which was published alongside the Social Housing White Paper in 2020 (which itself set out measures to rebalance the relationship between tenants and landlords in the sector). The 2022 Regulations also contribute to the wider package of reforms to building safety which are being implemented under the Building Safety Act.
From 1 October 2022, all relevant landlords (now including RPs) must:
- Ensure at least one smoke alarm is equipped on each storey of their homes where there is a room used as living accommodation.
- Ensure a carbon monoxide alarm is equipped in any room used as living accommodation which contains a fixed combustion appliance burning fuel of any type (excluding gas cookers). This will extend the existing duty under the 2015 Regulations, as currently the requirement only applies to solid fuel-burning combustion appliances.
- Ensure smoke alarms and carbon monoxide alarms are repaired or replaced as soon as reasonably practicable once informed and found that they are faulty (whereas currently, landlords only need to check that such alarms are in proper working order on the first day of the tenancy).
The requirements will continue to be enforced by local housing authorities (who can serve a remedial notice on any landlord whom they have reasonable grounds to believe is in breach of the duties) and any landlord found to be in breach could be fined up to £5,000.
Under the 2015 Regulations, certain tenancies were excluded from the requirements. The 2022 Regulations clarify that low cost home ownership accommodation tenancies (i.e. shared ownership and shared equity leases) are also excluded tenancies. Other exemptions include:
- shared accommodation with a landlord or landlord’s family;
- long leases and tenancies with a fixed term of seven years or more;
- student halls of residence;
- hotels and refuges;
- care homes; and
- hospitals, hospices and other accommodation relating to healthcare provision.
While these are new legal requirements for the social housing sector, the vast majority of RPs will already be complying with the regulations. Indeed, the National Housing Federation noted that there is already a 95% rate of compliance within the housing association sector. The new requirements for RPs were also welcomed by the majority of respondents in the response to the Government's consultation.
Nevertheless, landlords do face a fine of £5,000 per property for failure to install/maintain/replace or repair the alarms and for landlords with a large number of non-compliant properties, failure to undertake the necessary installation or maintenance works by 1 October may mean that the total fines payable could mount up quickly, not to mention the reputational and regulatory concerns that this may raise.
RP landlords should also ensure that all properties being purchased are already fitted with compliant alarms, especially when acquiring portfolios of tenanted stock, where gaining access to remedy any subsisting breaches could be difficult.
The Government has published some guidance for landlords and tenants on the new requirements and has separately published guidance for local housing authorities enforcing them.