Clearing up the confusion
If you’re a professional landlord or letting agent and assuming that you haven’t been on the Moon for the last year then you can’t have failed to have been bombarded with a plethora of rental property compliance updates and changes.
The residential rental marketplace is being shaken up root and branch and, whether or not you agree with the need for the variety of changes and new policy introductions, the reality is they appear here to stay.
From legionella risk assessments, electrical inspection condition reports, carbon monoxide and fire alarms and changes to the issuing of Section 21s, right through to the implications of The Deregulation Act, removal of mortgage tax relief, recent introduction of The Housing & Planning Act and Right To Rent – compliance for the residential rental property sector has turned into somewhat of a legal and financial minefield.
As much as change can be threatening it isn’t a wholly bad thing to be feared either. With the right information and access to the professionally supplied services you’ll need, complying with all of the legal aspects of renting out your residential properties can be made as painless and low cost as possible.
This month I’m going to focus on the recent changes as of 1st October 2015 to the installation of carbon monoxide and smoke alarms under The Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarm (England) Regulations 2015.
What’s required (and what’s not!)
In a nutshell, from the 1st October 2015 landlords in England only are required to:
Have at least one smoke alarm installed on every storey of their rental properties which is used as living accommodation – toilets and bathrooms are classed as living accommodations so in the case of a property with just a bathroom or toilet on a landing this would still require an alarm to be fitted on this level .
Have carbon monoxide alarms fitted in each room used as living accommodation where solid fuel appliances are contained – these are appliances such as woodburners, coal fired ranges/fires and similar appliances that burn solid fuels like wood or coal.
Check that each fitted alarm is in proper working order on the first day that the tenancy begins – if it is a new tenancy starting on or after 1st October 2015. This means that landlords or agents will now need to meet all new tenants at the property on the day the tenancy begins.
Failing to comply can lead to a fine of up to £5,000 issued by the local authorities, to whom tenants may not hesitate to report the failure to (more on that aspect later!) Fines aside though the human cost is the most important here. According to the main Government website this new legislation will help prevent up to 26 deaths and 670 injuries a year. In addition it is also the difference between a completely burnt down house and insurance nightmare as opposed to a bit of smoke damage and a lick of paint…I know which I’d choose any day!
Battery or mains carbon monoxide alarms?
Now back to that ‘reporting to the authorities’ aspect. Personally, at LME Move we recommend the fixing of mains wired smoke and carbon monoxide alarms as opposed to battery powered, removable devices. The reasons are three-fold:
Mains wired with battery back-up requires less maintenance and last slonger – the need to change the batteries is less frequent than with battery only devices. In short – better protection for your property and tenant.
Non-mains connected alarms have a tendency to go ‘walkabout’. I have lost count of the number of times landlords have come to us to request replacement alarms for the portable versions they only left in the property 6 months prior! This then leads me to point three…
Protect yourself as well as your tenants
In this day and age where every man and his dog appears to be hell bent on taking legal action over the smallest of things, having fixed alarms reduces the prospect of some less than honest tenants making off with your devices at the end of the tenancy or even worse, removing said devices and then reporting you to the local authorities!
That said, even with fixed devices installed we still always advise our landlord clients to carry out or have us provide a full inventory to document the presence of the devices and other fixtures and fittings. For landlords who decline an inventory we advise to at least obtain a signed form from their tenants to confirm that:
- There is a functioning smoke alarm and carbon monoxide alarm on each floor / in each room with a solid fuel burning appliance contained within it.
- All alarms are working and have been properly tested in each room which contains a solid fuel burning combustion appliance.
At the very least this helps ensure no complaints to the local authorities and legal headaches in the event that a relationship turns sour.
As a final note it’s worth me mentioning that whilst landlords can happily fix battery powered alarms to their properties themselves, mains powered alarms must legally only ever be installed by a fully qualified and registered electrician.
Myself and my fellow compliance colleague – Mark – are always here to guide you further should you be unsure of the best makes, models or location for devices to be installed within. Our nationwide team of electrical contractors are also available should you require large volumes installing throughout portfolios of properties.
Further information and official Government documentation and guides relating to the new legislation can be read here.
There is also a Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarm (England) Regulations 2015: Q&A booklet available here.
Until next month!
Sue Clear is Property Compliance Executive at LME Move.
Got a question for Sue or need carbon monoxide alarms supplying and fitting?
Get in touch with her and her colleagues here