Confusion over Smoke and CO Detector Legislation

Written by RLA

Regulations requiring landlords to install smoke detectors in all private rental properties, and carbon monoxide detectors in room with solid fuel appliances have stalled in committee in the House of Lords…

Regulations requiring landlords to install smoke detectors in all private rental properties, and carbon monoxide detectors in room with solid fuel appliances (England) have stalled in committee in the House of Lords.

Peers raised a number of concerns, not least the fact the regulations are due to come into force on October 1st – just 3 weeks away.  Some wanted the regulations, which only apply to the Private Rented Sector (PRS), extended to cover social housing and owner occupiers, while others wanted the CO detectors to be installed in all PRS properties.

The government must bring the regulations back to a full sitting of the Lords, most likely next week.  It remains to be seen whether any changes will be made or the deadline for introduction delayed.

The Lords setback comes just days after the Government issued guidance for landlords and local authorities, making it clear the regulations applied to all tenancies and that they would be enforced from 1st October, with no ‘grace period’.

The DCLG has published two guides regarding the Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarm (England) Regulations 2015.

Q&A Booklet for the Private Rented Sector – landlords and tenants

Explanatory Booklet for Local Authorities

  • This guide provides local authorities the information required to enforce the laws that are likely to be approved by Government.

Landlords will rightly gravitate towards the booklet designed for them; however, the local authority guidance could be of use because of the Enforcement Process that is laid out in the second document.

Further Information

About the author



The Residential Landlords Association (RLA) represents the interests of landlords in the private rented sector (PRS) across England and Wales. With over 23,000 subscribing members, and an additional 16,000 registered guests who engage regularly with the association, we are the leading voice of private landlords. Combined, they manage almost half a million properties.


  • Why are social tenants deemed to be safer than private tenants? Surely they are being put at risk by their landlords not being required to provide protection.
    Typical government making a simple thing complex.

    Why not ‘EVERY domestic landlord must provide smoke detectors in all let property’… end of story!

  • It’s a typical case of a situation we see more and more frequently these days i.e. of government regulations taking on a life of their own and (at best) running parallel (or sometimes) contrary to common sense. I’ve always been in favour of smoke detectors throughout a house, mains- and inter-connected with back-up batteries, so that, if a fire were to occur in one room, people in the rest of the house would be alerted. Carbon monoxide detectors which run off one or two standard AA batteries can be obtained for just a few pounds and fitted in minutes, so why not just fit one in each room with a gas appliance anyway, regardless of the regulation situation? In my properties only the kitchens have gas appliances, namely boiler and gas hob – that’s just one room and just one CO detector!

  • It seems as though Wales was not included in the proposed legislation for the fitting of carbon monoxide alarms in private rented properties, only England, although I not seen anything mentioned in the property publications.

  • I can’t believe this is even being talked about. Fitting detectors is already part of the building regulations. So if you don’t have them just get it done.
    You just might save a life.

  • In response to the various comments so far:

    1. There has (according to the Gov) been more of a resistance from private landlords to fit working Smoke and CO alarms than social landlords. It is acknowledged that most are responsible but that a number are not.

    2. Mandatory fitting of CO alarms in private rented property became law in Scotland on May 14th 2014 under the Housing Scotland Act 2014. Wales is expected to follow.

    3. The Building Regs (Part J) only requires CO alarms to be fitted into new builds and then not if they have gas.

    4. Much was debated in the Lords last week and the Bill has a number of flaws but the Government have promised to continue to review the issues and will introduce non regulatory practices as soon as possible. The Act will be fully reviewed in 2017.

    5. Student Halls and properties rented primarily to students are exempt which does seem crazy but so is the exemption of mains gas which has caused 35% of all coroner recorded deaths by CO over the last 19 years.

    6. It has been suggested to LGAs that they finance this extra work by generating revenue from fines. The fine is set at £5K in the Act. They have to do the work so they will have to finance it…

    7. There will be no period of grace from October 1st but if anyone is in breach they will have 28 days to put things right. There is a right of appeal.

    8. Based on what we are seeing LGA’s will be sensor inclusive testing CO alarms to make sure they are “working” i.e. sensing gas and using smoke aerosols for smoke detectors. The test button on a CO alarm only tests the circuit and not the sensor which has a limited and indeterminable life, they wont be able to test smoke alarms with a source of real smoke such as joss stick, cigarette or burning toast.

    9. Holiday Parks (caravans etc) are included but Residential Park Homes are exempt. The largest park operator in the UK consider LPG as a solid fuel and will continue to install and sensor inclusively test their CO alarms on each change over. Landlords must check on each change over and provide evidence to this effect.

    10. For the low cost involved and the potential to save lives and injury it is surely best to fit the alarms and have done with it but make sure that you test them properly to ensure that they are working on installation (16% of CO alarms have been found to fail out of the box by an independent study) and at least annually thereafter. You could be unwittingly caught out by officers from Environmental Health if your alarms are not working i.e. sensing smoke and sensing CO.

  • Tongue-in-cheek question…..

    How do you ensure that the smoke alarm is functioning. Remember, pressing the button is only a function test to check the circuit to the siren, it does not prove that the detector will detect smoke/CO and alarm accordingly…….

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