Extended Regulations on Domestic Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarms

Extended Regulations on Domestic Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarms

Published 10 August 2022

Author Articles @ EVO

Extended Regulations on Domestic Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarms

In 2019 and 2020, fire and rescue services attended to almost 30,000 domestic fires in the UK, 200 of which resulted in fatalities.

Every year about 20 people die from carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning and more than 4,000 hospital cases are related to CO inhalation.

The government has released draft legislation which will come into effect from 1 October 2022. The document outlines how the government will extend regulations on domestic smoke and CO alarms in both social and private rented accommodation by amending the Smoke and CO Alarm (England) Regulations 2015.

These amendments aim to bring uniformity to the rental sectors in respect of safety.


●       What is Carbon Monoxide?

●       The importance of having smoke and CO alarms

●       Proposals put forward

●       Smoke alarms in the private rental sector

●       The law and smoke alarms

●       Installation of CO alarms

●       Extended Regulations under the Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarm (Amendment) Regulations 2022

What is Carbon Monoxide?

Every time you burn fuel in fireplaces, heaters, gas ranges, grills, stoves and lanterns, CO is emitted. It can build up indoors and injure or kill people who inhale it.

Fuels are substances that react with oxygen to release useful energy. Most of the energy is released as heat. When a fuel burns in plenty of air, it receives enough oxygen for complete combustion.

Incomplete combustion occurs when the supply of air is poor. When this happens, instead of producing carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide and carbon are produced. CO is a poisonous gas that can make you severely ill or kill you if you are exposed to high levels.

Gas fires and boilers must be serviced regularly to ensure they do not produce carbon monoxide.


The Importance of Having Smoke and CO Alarms

Smoke and CO alarms protect residents from injury, death or damage to their homes by emitting a warning noise that there is a dangerously high level of smoke or gas in the home.

Like CO alarms, smoke alarms save lives. Government statistics show that you are approximately 8 times more likely to die in a fire if you do not have any working smoke alarms in your home.

The UK government wants residents to be safe in their homes, and landlords are expected to follow through on this ordinance. The Grenfell Tower tragedy in 2017 was followed by the social housing green paper which aimed at balancing and redressing the relationship between landlords and residents.

What the paper clearly revealed was the disparity between the private and the social rented sectors in terms of domestic safety protection. At the time, smoke and CO alarms were mandatory in privately rented properties but not in social rentals.

Proposals Put Forward

A consultation was established by the UK government recently to extend the regulations on smoke and CO alarms to:

  • Amend the Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarm (England) Regulations of 2015 to ensure that landlords install a smoke alarm on every floor of the premises where a room is used exclusively or partially as living accommodation.

  • Amend the Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarm (England) Regulations 2015 to ensure that private and social landlords install a CO alarm in all rooms used as living accommodation where a fixed combustion appliance is used (excluding gas cookers).

  • Amend Part J of the Building Regulations to ensure that CO alarms are fitted alongside fixed combustion appliances of any fuel type, but not including gas cookers. Combustion appliances are boilers, warm air heaters and water heaters.

  • Landlords will be required to carry out checks to ensure that all alarms are in proper working order, and each time a new tenant moves in to repair or replace the alarms if they are reported as being faulty during the tenancy.

Members of the consultation invited views on this issue from:

  • Residents and resident groups
  • Housing associations and local authorities
  • Private landlords and private sector landlord associations
  • Fire and rescue authorities
  • Fire and CO safety groups or charities
  • Heating installers and smoke alarm and CO alarm technical specialists and suppliers

Smoke Alarms in the Private Rental Sector

From 2018 to 2019, 91% of UK households, renting from a housing association or a local authority, had at least one working smoke alarm. Fewer owner-occupiers and private renters had smoke alarms.

Since the introduction of the Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarm (England) Regulations 2015, working smoke alarms in the private rented sector have increased from 83% to 88%.

The Law and Smoke Alarms

To meet the requirements set out in the Building Regulations 2010, smoke alarms have to be installed in all newly-built dwellings and when a home changes its use (for example, it converts to a business) or when extensions or lofts are built.

Since 2015, private sector landlords have been required to install at least one smoke alarm in rooms used as living accommodation and to ensure that they work at the start of each tenancy.

This regulation was a response to the poor standards in the private sector which, at that time, had fewer smoke alarms (83%) and CO alarms (21%) than any other sector.

During reviews of the laws proposed in 2015, it was found that the positioning of the smoke alarm can affect its efficiency and, as a result, many households reported that the alarm did not signal because it was too far away from the fire. The question also arose as to the frequency of testing the alarms.

The Home Office recommends that alarms should be tested once a month by the resident rather than the landlord and that if the smoke alarm is faulty, it is the landlord’s obligation to repair or replace it.

Installation of CO Alarms

CO can be emitted if a combustion appliance is faulty, badly installed or not maintained. It can also be emitted if a flue or chimney is blocked or leaking. While mild poisoning can lead to flu-like symptoms and headaches, high concentrations of CO can result in coma or death.

When installed correctly, CO alarms give an advance warning of high levels of CO. These alarms have to be properly installed, maintained and checked by a qualified engineer or electrician.

Carbon Monoxide Alarm Statistics

  • In 2018, 42% of all dwellings had a CO alarm.
  • Owner-occupied homes (43%) and social rented homes (43%) were more likely to have a CO alarm than private rented sector dwellings (39%).
  • Homes with a solid-fuel burning appliance, such as a coal fire or wood burning stove, were more likely (51%) to have a CO alarm than homes without a solid-fuel appliance (41%).

The CO alarms have to be fitted alongside the installation of fixed combustion appliances of any fuel type and the law applies to installations in new and existing homes.

It has also been recommended that the alarms be fitted on the ceiling at a distance of at least 300mm from any wall or on a wall as high up as possible.

Other specifications:

  • Compliance with British Standard Institute
  • A warning device that makes sounds to warn users when the working life is due to expire
  • A sensor failure warning device

Extended Regulations under the Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarm (Amendment) Regulations 2022

Smoke Alarms

During a tenancy, private and social landlords will need to install a smoke alarm on every storey where there is a room used as living accommodation.

CO Alarms

A CO alarm will be obligatory in any room used as living accommodation with a fixed combustion appliance. Gas cookers are dealt with under separate legislation but if you use a gas boiler, you will have to have a CO alarm installed.

It is a legal requirement that CO alarms are placed 1-3 metres away from any fuel-burning appliance. If a CO alarm is sounding, the tenant must open all windows and doors and turn off gas appliances. They should then leave the property and call the gas-safe emergency helpline: 0800 111 999.

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