Lawyer warns that agents must check smoke alarms on day of new tenancy and not before

SMOKE ALARM

Agents are reminded that as from October 1st 2015, the Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarm (England) Regulations come into effect.

These include a requirement for smoke alarms to be fitted on every floor of every rented property – whether the property has a new or existing tenancy.

There will also be a requirement for alarms to be tested for new tenancies starting on or after tomorrow. This requirement does not extend to existing tenancies, but does not detract from the requirement to provide smoke alarms in all rental homes.

Yesterday, lawyer Stephen Boyle, senior solicitor at law firm Hart Brown, warned of an additional “slight kink in the wording of the regulations that might catch the unwary”.

He said: “The regulations require that the landlord ‘ensure that each prescribed alarm is in proper working order on the day the tenancy begins if it is a new tenancy.

“Checking alarms a day or week before the new tenants move in would be a breach of the strict terms of the regulations, so landlords should beware of agents checking properties on their behalf in advance of a new tenancy beginning.

“If the alarms are not checked on the day the tenancy begins, the landlord will be the one facing a fine of up to £5,000.”

There will also be a requirement to fit carbon monoxide alarms in living spaces where there are solid fuel appliances.

Troublingly, Trading Standards has issued a warning to consumers after independent tests on CO alarms found that eight out of ten failed British Standards tests.

ARLA managing director David Cox said there had been a real “scrabble” among agents to fit smoke and carbon monoxide alarms and criticised the timescale, saying there had been just 13 days between Parliament sanctioning the new regulations and their implementation.

He said: “We are entirely supportive of the aims of the regulation, but have recommended that the Government has implemented too strict a timeframe for this. However, despite our calls to reconsider the timeframe, following final scrutiny of the measures a few weeks ago, the deadline was not extended and landlords must comply by tomorrow. For those who have not yet fitted smoke alarms, we urge them to do all they can today to ensure that their properties comply with the new regulations that come into play.

“There are also some changes to Section 21 which will come into force tomorrow, looking at when Section 21 notices can be served; how long they will be valid for; what needs to be served with them, and hopefully a new prescribed Section 21 notice.

“On top of all of this, new retaliatory eviction measures will also be coming into force tomorrow, banning landlords from using Section 21 for six months where a local authority has served an Improvement Notice. At ARLA, we have provided factsheets to all our members on these changes and encouragement for anyone who don’t fully understand the regulations to get up to speed as quickly as possible.”

Meanwhile, with just a day to go, there is still ample evidence of confusion with a misconception that the new requirement to fit smoke alarms and carbon monoxide alarms applies only to new tenancies starting on or after October 1.

However, a Twitter exchange between Henry Pryor and housing minister Brandon Lewis yesterday made clear that the requirement applies to both new and existing tenancies.