These regulations discussed below apply to single dwelling houses and flats and not Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs) which have their own regulations regarding fire safety.
Regulations (currently draft) are due to come into force 1 October 2015 making it a legal requirement for landlords to ensure as of the 1 October 2015 in their property and at the start of a new tenancy there are working fire alarms and carbon monoxide detectors installed in the property.
The Regulations state at paragraph 4:
(a)(i) a smoke alarm is equipped on each storey of the premises on which there is a room used wholly or partly as living accommodation;
(ii) a carbon monoxide alarm is equipped in any room of the premises which is used wholly or partly as living accommodation and contains a solid fuel burning combustion appliance; and
(b) checks are made by or on behalf of the landlord to ensure that each prescribed alarm is in proper working order on the day the tenancy begins if it is a new tenancy.
A bathroom or lavatory is considered to be living accommodation so if a storey in a property has only a bathroom and no other room it must still have a smoke alarm fitted on that storey.
There is no requirement that alarms need to be anything other than battery operated – i.e. mains wired interlinked smoke alarms (a Grade D fire system). A landlord who does not comply with the Regulations can be served an enforcement notice by the Council and fined up to £5,000. Detectors can be interlinked wirelessly as opposed to hard wired.
In our experience if the Council (B&NES Housing Standards) are called upon to inspect a property under their existing powers (Housing Act 2004 vis-a-vis the Housing Health and Safety Rating System) and their exists no smoke detectors in the property or only battery operated detectors they will require the landlord to install a ‘Grade D’ fire detection system in the property.
Should therefore landlords be installing a Grade D system rather than simply battery operated detectors? Property Link Estates’ opinion is yes not solely because the Council expect them but there are a number of advantages to a Grade D system. e.g.
(I) The detectors are interlinked meaning that when one detector is set off all detectors connected to it will be set off – this benefits larger houses where there could be some risk an alarm going off may not be heard in all parts of the property.
(ii) When a battery expires in a battery detector it starts beeping leaving a tenant to either remove the expired detector battery and replace it or remove it and not replace it – possibly never making the detector useless for at least the time it is without a battery. On a mains wired interlinked detector there will be battery back up which again will beep when the battery comes to the end of its life but because of the mains power to it only replacing the battery (or shutting of the mains power and removing the battery) will silence the beep.
(iii) All properties newly built or renovated must have a Grade D system installed
Where Property Link Estates manages a property we will be ensuring that the relevant detectors are installed and working by 1 October 2015 and at the start of a subsequent new tenancy. At the end of the tenancy it is expected that a landlord will be using an independent inventory service to check the tenant out against the inventory and all detectors are working. The tenancy agreement will make it a requirement that a tenant regularly check the working of the detectors, replacing batteries as required. When we inspect a property mid-term we will be looking to see that detectors are present where they should be and if possible test them. However, in the case of battery operated detectors if it comes to our attention a detector not to be working because it lacks a battery we will request the tenant replaces the battery but we will not follow this up with them – e.g. by revisiting the property or replacing the battery ourselves. The advantage of a Grade D system is that all alarms are likely to be working throughout the duration of the tenancy. As there is no legal prohibition on the landlord to install solely battery detectors nor check they are working during the tenancy and they are inferior to a Grade D system Property Link Estates will not burden themselves with any responsibility towards battery operated detectors other than the bare minimum legal obligations outlined above for the 1 October and the start of a tenancy.
The full text of the draft regulations can be found by clicking here