Health & Safety
Review of Policy on Smoke and CO Alarms
17 January 2014
In December 2013, the Government announced a review on the condition of homes in the private rented sector which will consider if new rules are needed on installing smoke and carbon monoxide alarms.
Rules already in place require landlords to keep homes safe and habitable for their tenants across a wide range of factors including regular gas boiler checks and high standards for quality of repairs, levels of ventilation and lighting and minimising damp.
A discussion paper will be published in January 2014, seeking the views of the housing sector and other interested parties on whether the system of regulation for private rented homes ensures adequate conditions and safety, or whether it could be improved or simplified, including the technical rules and issues around installing carbon monoxide and smoke alarms.
An amendment to the Energy Bill made in the House of Lords on 19 November 2013 gives Government the enabling powers to introduce a requirement for carbon monoxide and/or smoke alarms in private rented homes, although these will only be used if supported by the review which will consider the technical issues and current overlapping regulatory regimes.
A Ministerial statement said that government will now take forward a wide ranging and fundamental review into property conditions in the private rented sector, considering very carefully the case for requiring landlords to install carbon monoxide alarms and/or smoke alarms in their properties. Government will also engage widely with interested organisations including landlord associations, housing charities, tenant groups and professional bodies.
In Scotland, a new law making carbon monoxide (CO) alarms compulsory in Scottish properties came into force on 1 October 2013. New Building Regulations in Scotland will mean all new-build properties must be fitted with CO alarms. The law will also require houses, hotels, guest houses and care homes to have an alarm installed at the same time as a new boiler or gas appliance. The move aims to prevent deaths from the deadly gas, known as "the silent killer" because it cannot be seen, heard, smelt or tasted. Cases are commonly caused by faulty or badly-serviced gas appliances and other fossil fuel-burning systems.
CO poisoning kills at least 50 people every year in the UK and leads to more than 1,100 hospital admissions.
The change in the law, making CO alarms compulsory, will help to save many lives.
At this time of year, people are using their heating, so it is important to remember that gas appliances and flues that have not been properly installed, maintained or ventilated could cause CO poisoning.
- Have your gas appliances serviced annually by a gas engineer who is registered with Gas Safe Register.
- Use professionals to service any other fossil-fuel burning appliances such as oil or coal burning stoves annually.
- Fix carbon monoxide detectors in your home, which can be purchased from most DIY-type stores, and maintain and replace them according to packaging instructions.
- Know how to spot the signs of a CO leak, which include suffering prolonged flu-like symptoms, excessive condensation in the room, sooty stains on or near appliances and boiler pilot light flames burning orange instead of blue.