Smoke Alarms…Is your rental property compliant?

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Since late last year there have been various legal changes in terms of the provision/testing of alarms and monitors in residential rental properties. These changes include the following:-

  • There is a legal requirement to provide a smoke alarm to every floor of a rental property
  • There is a legal requirement to provide a carbon monoxide monitor to a rental property that has a solid fuel heat source (open fire/multi-fuel/log-burner) – although we would recommend these are installed as a matter of course in all properties
  • There is a need for all monitors/alarms to be tested on the first day of any new tenancy. This testing should be documented.

Whilst monitoring/implementing these new requirements for our Fully Managed Landlords we have noted a few issues that may also be of use to our Tenant Find and Rent Receipt Landlords.

  • We have found several properties – usually of the smaller one/two bed varieties with hard-wired mains units fitted – that have heat alarms fitted downstairs and smoke alarms on the first floor. In these cases there are two options available to make the property compliant. The Landlord can either opt to change the ‘head’ of the heat alarm for a smoke alarm or retain the heat unit and fit a stand-alone smoke alarm. Our advice would be the latter of these two options as the heat alarms are normally located, for obvious reasons, very near the kitchen areas. Locating a smoke alarm in such areas will easily cause nuisance to tenants.
  • Any ground floor smoke alarm should be located in an area of high air circulation and close to the primary escape route e.g. lobby area/bottom of the stairwell near the front door.

One problem we have also encountered is the need to be able to differentiate between smoke and heat alarms. Although the bodies of the units are marked as to the style of alarm the lettering is often very difficult to read from floor level. The main, visual, differences between alarms is that the heat variety tend to have a protruding sensor in the middle and smoke alarms are nearly always flat – see pictures below.

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Additional Notes

  • Do not allow the sensors/alarms to become painted
  • Check the alarms for expiry dates – many mains powered smoke alarms have a date marked around  the edge
  • Ensure that the correct style of back-up battery is used. Most mains powered smoke/heat alarms have rechargeable batteries fitted. We have seen many cases where tenants (thinking they are doing the right thing) have fitted ordinary disposable batteries!  
  • All monitors and alarms are tested on each management visit to our fully managed properties. The lack of correct alarms/monitors will, in most cases, invalidate a landlord’s insurance policy

 

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