Chaos as Lords reject smoke alarm law with just three weeks to go

Chaos reigns over the mandatory introduction of smoke and carbon monoxide alarms in private rented homes.

The requirement was for alarms to be installed in almost all rental properties by the end of this month.

However, with just three weeks to go, the draft Regulations have still not been approved by Parliament, and yesterday the House of Lords threw them out and demanded it should debate them.

Peers said that the Government has not done enough to inform landlords and agents of the requirement, and that the legislation is poorly worded.

It is, however, still possible that the legislation could kick in on October 1.

Only days ago, the Government hurried out a guide to the requirement – knowing that it had not got through Parliament.

As things stand, the new rules require at least one smoke alarm on every floor.

According to the draft Regulations, there is to be no grace period and landlords found to be in breach could be fined up to £5,000.

It is now not clear if the requirement will go live on October 1, and if so whether landlords and their agents will be given more than a few days’ notice in which to comply. It is not even known whether the Regulations could be changed.

The British Property Federation yesterday hit out at the “Government’s disorganisation and lack of clarity”.

It also criticised the fact that there had been no consultation.

As things stand under the draft Regulations, the requirements are for a working smoke alarm to be fitted on each floor. A carbon monoxide alarm must be fitted in any room where solid fuel is used.

The requirements cover properties with both existing and new tenancies.

Landlords, or their agents, will be responsible for ensuring that the alarms work at the start of the tenancy. Tenants then become responsible for looking after them.

Exemptions include HMOs – but only because they have their own regulations on alarms – and properties owned by social landlords.

Enforcement will be by the local authorities, which will be able to require landlords to fit alarms within 28 days.

The Government’s short guide, albeit flagging up that the Regulations have yet to be passed, is here

And lawyer Tessa Shepperson has done a helpful blog but it should be borne in mind that this was written before the Lords refused to rubber-stamp the draft Regulations.

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13 Comments

  1. Inventory

    Mindful of the above content and in particular the statement ‘Landlords, or their agents, will be responsible for ensuring that the alarms work at the start of the tenancy.   Tenants then become responsible for looking after them’.

    Many Inventory Companies are being asked by their Agents to test these alarms and provide written authority that alarms are working.

    All our insurance companies have categorically advised us not to as we’re not registered electricians or equipped to conduct a PAC test.

    It seems that no-one wants to take responsibility.   That is to say, we can test the alarm for sound only (and only if contact can be made), which we (our company) do as standard practise and record ‘audible’ on the inventory.

    If a contractor were to commit themselves to stating ‘working’ and should a death occur after the test,  that contractor wouldn’t be insured to accept responsibility.

    Can anyone throw any light on who should be testing the alarms at the start in the absence of the Landlord?

     

     

     

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    1. smile please

      Maybe employ smokes to to blow smoke and test they work? 😉

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  2. MF

    All I can say is Hurrah for the House of Lords!  If we all ran our businesses the way Government are running theirs….

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  3. Woodentop

    “Landlords, or their agents, will be responsible for ensuring that the alarms work at the start of the tenancy. Tenants then become responsible for looking after them”.

    After they move in its down to the tenant!

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  4. GlennAckroyd

    Inventory – Why does it need an electrician to test these alarms?

    Unlike Scotland, the regulations in England & Wales do not require the smoke alarms to be mains wired, or even interlinked. So a cheap standalone battery operated one would suffice.

    Our local fire service is providing these with 10 year integrated batteries. You can get these for around £12-15 online.

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    1. Met428

      Dear Glenn

      please can you clarify landlord/ tenant and rent to buy?

      i cannot see in the legalisation any where that states rent to buy.

      kind regards

      Houses put forward on a rent to buy basis are done so on exactly the same basis as a house for sale. The house is sold as seen and it is for the new occupier to improve and make changes as they choose.

       

      So to that extent you are not akin to a traditional tenant. Similarly, you have a fixed price and benefit from house price growth – just like a home owner.

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  5. MKM1979

    This is people’s safety we are debating! I think it should be unequivocal that they are required and, surely, common sense and the terms of the TA dictate that agents should ensure they are working at commencement and tenants throughout? I don’t really understand what needs debate! Talk about making it complicated to justify your job…

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    1. smile please

      This is the reason i do not offer lettings.

      Can a tenant not think for themselves and think, hang on a smoke alarm is a good idea, think i might purchase one!

      Whats next going round every night to check the front door is locked incase of burglars.

      Yes people safety is paramount but they have to take some responsibility themselves.

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  6. Robert May

    I think any tenant daft enough to delegate their own well being to having a contractor or agent  do a weekly check on smoke alarms really ought to be in slightly more secure accommodation for their own safety

    Renting property is renting a home and shouldn’t come with the same expectations as staying in a hotel or guest house.

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  7. Inventory

    I sense a misunderstanding with my original post,  at no point in the content did I introduce a ‘debate’ nor did I contest that they shouldn’t be fitted.

    Simply put, I’m merely asking lettings agents, who, in the absence of the L/L at the start of tenancy are they employing to test them?

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  8. Woodentop

    I think the confusion could be your comment … “If a contractor were to commit themselves to stating ‘working’ and should a death occur after the test,  that contractor wouldn’t be insured to accept responsibility.”

    “After they move in its down to the tenant” was my comment according to the current proposition, therefore no issues with insurance cover. Do you not have all electrics including wired smoke alarms tested and certificated before the tenant moves by qualified electricians? Do you not make regular inspections during the tenancy which would highlight issues the responsibility of the LL or tenant? Answer is not required as should be self evident if you don’t.

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  9. jeremy1960

    As agents we have our inventory clerk “test” smoke detectors and now carbon monoxide detectors by pushing the test button and listening. As we use sealed units rather than those where the batteries can be replaced we have a policy that if no sound at the inventory stage then the units are replaced. Using the sealed units has also taken away the issue of tenants removing batteries!

    During mid-term visits our property managers undertake the same exercise.

    IMHO it’s common sense not rocket science, no need to “employ” a tradesman to “test”.

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    1. Will

      In my inventories their is a preamble which recommend regular testing of alarms and states should they not operate they must contact me in writing so a new alarm can be fitted. If a tenant is not capable to a simple test and not sufficiently responsible why should they expect other to be responsible? The proposed regulation merely make it a requirement that a working alarm be fitted at the start of the tenancy. Most responsible landlords have been doing that for years and quite frankly the irresponsible ones will not even know of the regulations let alone comply!   Having said that all too often the batteries are removed and in one instance where there is a hard wired alarm the tenant broke it open to try to find the battery!!! yet the Government want us to be responsible for idiots who happily put their own life at risk.

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