The Government has today announced that following its consultation that closed earlier this year, social housing providers will be required by law to install at least one smoke alarm on each storey of a premises where there is a room used wholly or partly as living accommodation. This change will be implemented through amendments to the Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarm (England) Regulations 2015 and the statutory guidance (Approved Document J) supporting Part J of the Building Regulations.

Changes will also be made so that providers must fit carbon monoxide alarms when new appliances such as gas boilers or fires are installed in any room in a home with a fixed combustion appliance, such as a gas boiler or fire - excluding gas cookers. They must also repair or replace smoke and carbon monoxide alarms once they are told they are faulty.

The changes will now need to be implemented through legislative amendments and will mean that both private and social sector landlords will be obliged to install, repair and replace faulty alarms when issues are reported by tenants. Landlords will also be required to ensure alarms are in working order on the first day of each new tenancy.

These changes give rise to some interesting questions for providers, including:

What will be the scope of these changes?

How will these changes interact with the obligations of providers under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005?

Whilst the Government is not proposing there should be a requirement to test alarms, and state responsibility will normally fall on the tenant, how will providers approach this? The consultation proposes that guidance on the topic may be released. 

The consultation states providers will be obliged to repair or replace a faulty alarm where a fault is reported to them. Do providers have a clear means through which tenants can raise concerns? And what is / will be the landlord’s obligations under this and other legislation if a fault occurs but is not reported (whether intentionally or not)?

As a result, providers will need to keep under review how to implement these requirements, taking into account any further guidance issued. For more detailed advice in relation to these issues please contact Lorna Kenyon.