On 1 October 2015, subject to Parliamentary approval, new Regulations placing further obligations on Landlords will come into force. The Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarm (England) Regulations 2015 will apply to all residential properties in the private rented sector with the purpose of reducing the number of injuries or deaths from smoke or carbon monoxide poisoning. The new Regulations are expected to help prevent up to 26 deaths and 670 injuries per year through placing three duties onto Landlords.
The Law as it stands
On 11 March 2015 the Energy Act 2013 (Commencement No. 2) Order 2015 was made which bought into effect s.150 of the Energy Act 2013. The effect of s.150 required Landlords to fit an alarm of a standard to be specified in regulations and stipulates that there will be a penalty for not doing so. However, the main problem with the Order is that it did not specify what type of alarm and the penalty for failing to comply with the Act. This has caused widespread confusion for Landlords and is all set to change with the enforcement of the Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarm (England) Regulations 2015 should they be approved by Parliament.
The new Regulations set out the alarm requirement, the penalty process and the level of penalty should the Landlord fail to comply with the Regulations. This will ultimately create a greater certainty for Landlords regarding their obligations and also provide a greater degree of protection for occupiers.
How will the new Regulations affect Landlords?
The Regulations will place three ultimate duties on a ‘relevant landlord’ of a ‘specified tenancy’ from 1 October 2015 under Regulation 4:
- A smoke alarm must be installed on each storey of premises that are wholly or partly used as living accommodation;
- A carbon monoxide alarm must be installed in any room that is used wholly or partly used as living accommodation and contains a solid fuel burning combustion appliance; and
- The smoke and carbon monoxide alarms are in proper working order at the start of any new tenancy.
The Government however, to help Landlords prepare for the new regulations, have suggested that England’s 46 fire and rescue authorities are to aid this transition and support private Landlords in their own areas with the provision of free alarms purchased through governmental funding. The amount of funding provided via the Government has been announced at £3 million which will provide around 445,000 smoke and 40,000 carbon monoxide alarms split between the 46 authorities. It is then at the discretion of the relevant local fire and rescue authority to determine their own arrangements for the distribution of such alarms to Landlords.
Who and what will the Regulations affect?
The Regulations will only place duties on the ‘relevant landlord’. This is the immediate Landlord of the premises and, therefore, will not apply to a registered provider of social housing.
The Regulations will also only place the duty on Landlords of a ‘specified tenancy’. A specified tenancy encompasses a tenancy, sub-tenancy, lease, sub-lease, and licence of residential premises which grants one or more people the right to occupy the premises as their only or main residence in return for the payment of rent.
However it is important to note that the Regulations will only apply to new tenancies. This means that there is no need for Landlords to panic – as long as action is taken regarding tenancies entered into on or after 1 October 2015 they will have performed their obligations under the Regulations.
Therefore, there is no need for Landlords to install a smoke and carbon monoxide alarm in accordance with the Regulations on any agreement entered into before 1 October 2015.
Repercussions for non-compliance
Should there be reasonable grounds to believe that a Landlord has not complied with the three duties under the new Regulation, a local housing authority must serve a remedial notice on the landlord. This notice must be in writing and will specify the premises to which it relates to, the duty which is believed to have been breached and the action which must be taken in order to remedy that breach.
Once the local housing authority has reasonable grounds for non-compliance with the Regulations, they must serve the notice on the Landlord within 21 days. Once the Landlord has received such notice, there are two options available:
- They must comply with the notice within 28 days beginning with the day the notice is served; or
- They may make written representations against the notice within 28 days beginning with the day the notice is served.
If the Landlord fails to comply with the notice and remedy the breach, provided that the occupier of the premises consents, the local housing authority will arrange for an authorised person to carry out the action in order to remedy the breach.
What are the penalties for non-compliance?
Non-compliance with the duties imposed on the Landlord may result in a penalty charge, subject to a cap of £5,000. A penalty charge can only be imposed where a local housing authority, on the balance of probabilities, believes that the Landlord has breached its obligations under the Regulations and failed to comply with the remedial notice given. There are provisions for a Landlord to appeal throughout the process.
Key points to remember
In summary, there are four key elements of the Regulations to note:
- The Regulations will only apply to agreements entered into on or before 1 October 2015 so there is no duty on Landlords to install smoke and carbon monoxide alarms in accordance with the Regulations on pre-exiting agreements.
- The Regulations impose three simple duties onto the Landlord:
- A smoke alarm must be installed on each floor of the premises;
- A carbon monoxide alarm must be installed on each floor of the premises where there is a solid fuel burning combustion appliance; and
- The smoke and carbon monoxide alarm must in a proper working condition at the start of the tenancy.
- If there are reasonable grounds for believing that there has been non-compliance with the Regulations a remedial notice will be served by the local housing authority which must be actioned by the Landlord within 28 days.
- Failure to remedy the breach of the Regulations may result in a penalty charge of up to £5,000.
If you would like any further legal guidance on a residential lettings issue, feel free to contact our myself on 01908 660966 (Milton Keynes) or by email. Alternatively you can also contact my colleague Suzie Raygada in Northampton on 01604 828282 or via email.