As no doubt you are all aware, all rented properties (in England) now subject to The Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarm (England) Regulations 2015.
This says that they need to have smoke alarms on every storey with living accommodation, and carbon monoxide alarms in every room which has a solid fuel burning combustion appliance.
However reading and talking about these regulations to landlords and agents recently, has brought forth a number of real problems with their implementation.
The problem with the checks
For example, the regulations say in s4(1)(b) that a landlord must ensure that
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.
But what is meant by ‘checks’?
Most people will just press the ‘test’ button. But it has been pointed out that, for the carbon monoxide alarms, this will just test the circuitry, not the sensor.
The only way you can test the sensor – which apparently is the part of the unit most likely to fail anyway – is by injecting test gas, for example Detectagas, over the alarm. Does anyone ever do this?
We are also told in the article that the sensors inside carbon monoxide alarms have very limited life spans.
Presumably smoke alarms can also only really be properly tested if you check to see if they re-act to smoke.
The government guide is silent on the question of how the checks should actually be carried out, although FAQ 21 appears to indicate that the landlord may have complied if the tenants sign the inventory to confirm that they are satisfied that the alarms are in working order.
So in default of any other guidance, landlords and agents should aim to get that signature!
The problem with the time for the checks
There is also the fact that these alarms are to be tested on ‘the day the tenancy begins’.
Not the day before. Not the day they sign the tenancy agreement. The day the tenancy begins.
This will not be easy for agents where they have to check in large numbers on the same day. Often it will be impossible for them to comply.
An impossible situation
So we have uncertainty about the testing and an impossibly narrow window of time to carry out the checks.
There has been a lot of criticism of the very short period of time between the passing of these regulations and their coming into force on 1 October 2015, which made it difficult for landlords to comply.
I have also been told recently that there were actually not enough smoke and carbon monoxide alarms available in the country to enable to them to do so!
I think we all agree that having these alarms in properties is a good idea.
However making laws which are impossible to comply with is not going to help.