The Landlord’s Guide to Smoke Alarms and Carbon Monoxide Alarms

The Landlord's Guide to Smoke Alarms and Carbon Monoxide AlarmsThere’s a lot of things that a landlord has to take care of, but one of the most important things is making sure the tenants are safe from fire, smoke, and CO (Carbon Monoxide). It is the landlord’s responsibility to make sure smoke alarms and Carbon Monoxide alarms are fitted in their tenanted property; if they ignore this, they can get a fine, sent to prison, or even worse, have the death of a person on their conscience.

In England and Scotland the landlords must fit smoke and CO alarms in their tenanted properties by law, and in Wales and Northern Ireland the landlords have a duty of care to the people living in their property. As a landlord, the best way to make sure your tenants are safe and you comply with the current regulations is to make sure you fit smoke alarms and carbon monoxide alarms!

It is the duty of the landlords to know the updated fire safety regulations for private landlords (which came into force on the 1st of October 2015) regarding smoke and CO alarms: what are the legal requirements, what types of alarms should be fitted and where, what are the best practices recommended, what are the British Standards, how to connect and interlink the alarms, and how to maintain the alarms according to these rules. In short, here’s what you need to know if you’re a landlord:

  • Landlords MUST make sure a smoke alarm is fitted on every level / storey of the building.
  • Landlords MUST fit a Carbon Monoxide alarm in every room where there’s a solid fuel burning appliance.
  • The smoke / CO alarms MUST be tested and they MUST be working properly at the start of each tenancy.
  • Penalties (up to £5,000) WILL be applied to those who don’t keep these rules, and the relevant local authority will enforce these rules.

These regulations apply to residential premises – premises all or part of which coprise a dwelling, licensed HMOs, and the premises let under a specified tenancy or a license (which grants one or more persons the right to occupy premises as their only or main residence, with a rent or payable fee). Exemptions to these rules are are the landlords who live in with the tenants, landlords granting a right of occupation for a term of 7 years or more, and landlords who are registered providers of social housing.

What are the Dangers of Fire and Smoke?

Many people die or get injured because of fire fires because they are exposed to hazardous smoke and toxic gasses, rather than being exposed to actual heat or flames from the fire itself. This is why the rules enforce “smoke alarms” rather than fire alarms.

Here are some dangers of fire and smoke:

  • The smoke resulting from fire can obscure the escape routes, causing people to be disoriented and slowing them down from escaping.
  • When Hydrogen Cyanide and other toxic gasses are released due to the burning of plastics and other materials, dizziness, confusion, unconsciousness, and even death can ensue.
  • The Oxygen in the air is consumed by the fire, and the reduction of Oxygen in the air that we breathe can cause impaired thinking and lower attention, reducing our coordination and judgement.

According to recent statistics, 41% of people died from being overcome by gas or smoke, while others died of burns overcome by gas or smoke. The best way to insure the tenants are safe in case of fire is to fit appropriate smoke alarms, giving them the earliest possible warning to get out of the property when there’s a fire.

What are the Dangers of Carbon Monoxide?

Dangers of Carbon Monoxide and Symptoms of Carbon Monoxide PoisoningCarbon Monoxide (CO) is a by-product of burning any combustible material such as oil, wood, gas, or coal. If breathed in by us, it replaces the oxygen in the blood and suffocates us, leading to death. CO is a silent killer: it cannot be detected yet it is there, and it can pass through gaps in-between the door fittings and floor boards, through the carpet, and even through the drywall.

Many people don’t know what Carbon Monoxide is, but when they cook or boil something they may have some symptoms like headaches, nausea, or fatigue – similar to flu, but caused by CO. Small leaks can leave a lasting damage on our lungs, our heart, and our brain if we are exposed to CO over long periods of time. If there’s a bad Carbon Monoxide leak, a person can be left unconscious and dying within minutes.

The Carbon Monoxide comes from cookers, boilers, wood burners, and open fires, being a by-product of the fuel burning processes in the household appliances. Even if these appliances are set up properly, problems may still show; anywhere appliances burn fuel, you need to make sure CO alarms are installed to protect the tenants.

Possible sources of CO can be blocked, cracked, or corroded flue / vent, back drafting through chimney or flue, or appliances without flues.

It is the Duty of Care of a landlord who has people living on his property to make sure you have Smoke and Carbon Monoxide alarms fitted.

Legislation for Landlords RE: Smoke and CO Alarms

From 1 October 2015, the landlords are required to:

  1. Install a smoke alarm on every floor / storey of their property. There’s no stipulation what type of alarm to be installed (what brand, etc), but the landlords are supposed to make an informed decision and choose the BEST alarms for their properties and tenant.
  2. Install a carbon monoxide alarm (CO alarm) in rooms with solid fuel burning appliances. The landlords are encouraged and expected to ensure that working Carbon Monoxide alarms are installed in rooms with gas appliances.
  3. Test the alarm(s) at the start of every tenancy. During a tenancy, it is the tenant’s responsibility to test the alarm(s) on a monthly basis.
  4. There’s no grace period: Failure to complete these requirements may result in a £5,000 fine.

Smoke Alarms: By law, all private tenanted properties in England MUST have working smoke alarms installed on every level / storey of the property. In Scotland, as part of the “Housing (Scotland) Act 2006”, the landlords must have a satisfactory provision for detecting fires, making sure they install smoke alarms in rooms frequently used by occupants for general daytime living (like the living room) and every circulation space (hallway, landing, etc). Also, a heat alarm should be installed in every kitchen, and all alarms should be interlinked / interconnected, all being Grade D mains powered and battery back-up.

CO Alarms: By law, from the 1st of October 2015 all private tenanted properties in England must have working Carbon Monoxide alarms installed in every room with a solid fue burning appliance (wood burners, coal fires, boilers, and places flues are passing through). Also, it is expected that reputable landlords cover gas appliances. In Scotland, as of 1 December 2015, by law all private tenanted properties must have working CO alarms installed in every room or interconnected space where there’s a fixed combustion appliance (excluding an appliance used solely for cooking) such as gas boilers, wood burners, etc.

Levels of Coverage and Recommended Fire Detection Systems

Levels of Coverage and Recommended Fire Detection Systems

According to the recent regulations, the levels of coverage of automatic fire detection and warning systems as specified in BS 5839: part 6 (2004) are:

  1. LD1 coverage: a system installed throughout the dwelling incorporating detectors in all circulation spaces that form part of the escape routes from the dwelling, and in all rooms and areas in which fire might start.
  2. LD2 coverage: a system incorporating detectors in all circulation spaces that form part of the escape routes from the dwelling and in all rooms or areas that present a high fire risk to occupants i.e. risk rooms.
  3. LD3 coverage: a system incorporating detectors in circulation spaces that form part of the escape routes from the dwelling only.

Recommended grade and coverage of automatic fire detection and warning system for various categories of existing residential premises (normal risk):

  • Single household occupancy up to four storeys – Grade D: LD3 coverage (interlinked)
    Single household occupancy five or six storeys – Grade A: LD3 coverage
  • Shared house HMO of up to two storeys (shared cooking facilities) – Grade D: LD3 coverage + additional detection to the kitchen, lounge and any cellar containing a risk (interlinked)
  • Shared house HMO of three or four storeys (shared cooking facilities) – Grade D: LD3 coverage + additional detection to the kitchen, lounge and any cellar containing a risk (interlinked)
  • Shared house HMO of five or six storeys (shared cooking facilities) – Grade A: LD2 coverage (detection in all risk rooms i.e. bedrooms, kitchen and lounge) (interlinked)
  • Bedsit HMO of one or two storeys with individual cooking facilities within bedsits – A mixed system:
    1. Grade D: LD2 coverage in the common areas and heat detectors in bedsits (interlinked)
    2. Grade D smoke alarm in each bedsit to protect the sleeping occupants (non-interlinked)
  • Bedsit HMO of three to six storeys with individual cooking facilities within bedsits – A mixed system:
    1. Grade A: LD2 coverage in the common areas and heat detectors in bedsits (interlinked)
    2. Grade D smoke alarm in each bedsit to protect the sleeping occupants (non-interlinked)
  • Two-storey house converted to self-contained flats (prior to Building Regulations 1991, approved document B standard) – A mixed system:
    1. Grade D: LD2 coverage in the common areas and a heat detector in each flat in the room/lobby opening onto the escape route (interlinked)
    2. Grade D: LD3 coverage in each flat (non-interlinked smoke alarm in the room/lobby opening onto the escape route) to protect the sleeping occupants
  • Three to six storey house converted to self-contained flats (prior to Building Regulations 1991, approved document B standard)
    1. Grade A: LD2 coverage in the common areas and a heat detector in each flat in the room/lobby opening onto the escape route (interlinked)
    2. Grade D: LD3 coverage in each flat (non-interlinked smoke alarm in the room/lobby opening onto the escape route) to protect the sleeping occupants
  • Building converted partly into self-contained flats and partly into bedsits or non-self-contained lets – A mixed system: Apply the appropriate recommendation for each unit of accommodation from this table and the appropriate whole-house system based on the storey height
  • Flat in multiple occupation (FMO) (any storey height and regardless of date of construction/conversion) – Grade D: LD3 coverage + additional heat detector in the kitchen (and shared living room depending on risk)

This guide has been compiled from the official HOUSING – FIRE SAFETY, Guidance on fire safety provisions for certain types of existing housing.

Best Practice – What to Fit and Where

Best practice - what smoke / CO alarms to fit and where. In the picture: Aico Ei164E Heat Detector AlarmSmoke Alarms and Carbon Monoxide alarms may be the only devices that stand between life and death – they are truly life saving devices, and the British Standard BS 5839-6:2013 tells us where to put them in our house. All the local authorities, HMO licenses, installers, and landlords as well need to fit these alarms according to the regulations so that the life of those living in these buildings would be protected.

Regarding the Smoke Alarms, the British Standard BS5839-6:2013 (sometimes referred to as Part 6) recommends a minimum of a grade D category LD2 smoke alarm system is adopted, subject to a Fire Risk Assessment. Grade D refers to Mains powered alarms with back-up power supply, while LD2 refers to Medium Protection, that is, escape routes and high risk areas such as hallways, landings, living room, and the kitchen.

Regarding the Carbon Monoxide Alarms, the British Standard BS EN 50292:2013 recommends that CO Alarms would be fitted in the rooms where there are fuel burning appliances, where people sleep, where people spend the most time, and in each room that a flue runs through or alongside.

For LD2 Medium Protection it is recommended to install smoke alarms in the landing area, the hall, and the living room, and CO alarm in the kitchen. For example, you can fit the Aico Ei166 optical smoke alarm in the landing area, the hallway, and the living room, and an Aico Ei208 CO Alarm in the kitchen.

For LD1 High Protection it is recommended to install heat alarms in the bedrooms, smoke alarms in the landing, living room, and the hall, and CO alarm in the kitchen. For example, you can fit Aico Ei164 heat alarm in the bedrooms, the Aico Ei166 optical smoke alarm in the landing area, the hallway, and the living room, and an Aico Ei208 CO Alarm in the kitchen.

Further references:
  • Changes in legislation for Landlords, as compiled by Aico.
  • The Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarm (England) Regulations 2015: Q&A booklet for the private rented sector – landlords and tenants (pdf file).
  • The Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarm (England) Regulations 2015, legislation document.
    HOUSING – FIRE SAFETY – Guidance on fire safety provisions for certain types of existing housing, by LACORS.
  • The Landlord’s Duty of Care obligations.