Landlords have responsibilities to keep tenants safe in their properties by providing functioning life-safety equipment.
Regulations introduced in 2015 require private-sector landlords to ensure they ‘have at least one smoke alarm installed on every storey of their properties’ as a legal requirement.
There is also a proposed change to this regulation, coming into effect later this year, which will mean social housing is also included, making it mandatory that all rented accommodation must have working smoke alarms fitted. It will also be compulsory for landlords to repair or replace any faulty alarms as soon as they are made aware of defects.
Fines up to £5,000
To protect their tenant, it is the landlord’s responsibility to ensure detectors are fitted and working at the start of every new tenancy agreement. Failure to comply with The Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarm Regulations introduced in 2015 can result in a hefty fine of up to £5,000.
One exasperated landlord wrote online that in one of his properties ‘Two of the detector heads have been tampered with, presumably so that the tenants can smoke in their rooms’. Consequently, this had been causing false fire alarms and it is up to the landlord to repair or replace the alarm.
In some extreme cases, landlords have discovered that smoke alarms have been removed altogether from properties, due to disturbances when cooking, smoking, etc. It is then up to the landlord to replace the alarm, and so it is advisable to invest in measures to prevent the alarms’ removal; some recommendations have been made in government legislations such as BS 5839-6:2019.
Ultimately, landlords should feel obligated to ensure regular testing of smoke alarms and the replacement of batteries in their properties to reduce the risk of void insurance or a remedial notice. Simply testing smoke alarms can also help to prevent any danger to tenants and damage to properties should a fire occur.
The latest recommendations in BS 5839-6:2019 are primarily concerned with saving lives and reducing injuries caused by fire but also cover reducing property damage, which can be extremely costly to landlords in the case of fires.
The guidance in BS 5839-6:2019 suggests that in environments such as HMOs, where multiple occupants can be disturbed by false alarms, landlords could alter their smoke alarm systems to have delays before the signal is sent to all tenants for the occupier to investigate the cause. This can help to reduce complacency during false fire alarms or the temptation to dangerously compromise smoke alarms.
The recommendation also states that landlords should seek alternative smoke alarms that can alert to intervention or disablement of the alarm in the event of tenants continually tampering.
Although it is the landlord’s legal duty to provide working smoke alarms in all properties, tenants must not tamper with smoke alarms, remove them, cover them up or in any other way damage or prevent them from operating in their intended manner. Failure to comply with this could result in the tenant facing a substantial fine, or termination of their tenancy agreement.
It falls to the tenants to take their own safety into consideration and should contact landlords if there are any issues with smoke alarms, such as false fire alarms, so their landlord can test and replace the batteries, or alarms themselves if necessary. Preventing alarms from effectively detecting fires can result in fatal incidents and fines for misconduct falling to the tenants.
One student at Edinburgh University covered the smoke alarm in his room with bubble wrap whilst living in student accommodation. Preventing the smoke detector from working effectively proved a dangerous mistake when a fire started in his room and he had to be pulled to safety after being found struggling to escape the flames while the building was being evacuated. As a consequence, for this reckless behaviour, he was fined and ordered to pay £1,000 in compensation after being arrested and pleading guilty.
Steel Web Stoppers
Safety Technology International is a specialist manufacturer of a range of fire, safety and security products; their wire cages help to prevent tampering with essential life safety equipment, such as smoke alarms.
STI’s Steel Web Stoppers are designed to protect against vandalism, misuse and damage to smoke and fire detectors. Constructed from plastic-coated, heavy-duty galvanised steel rod, the Steel Web Stoppers can withstand the severest of abuse from vandalism or accidental damage. It also prevents tampering with the alarm, without hindering legitimate use, therefore still allowing the landlord to service the device and replace batteries when appropriate.
For more information, go to www.sti-emea.com