Fire Fire! New safety regulations to protect tenants!

There has been some positive news for renters for a change! It was announced by the Minister for Fire Resilience and Emergencies, Penny Mordaunt, at the Local Government Association fire conference, that smoke alarms and carbon monoxide alarms are to become mandatory in all privately rented accommodation. These life-saving regulations will be laid before Parliament and will require all private sector landlords to install smoke alarms on each storey of their property, carbon monoxide alarms in the rooms considered most at risk from high levels of carbon monoxide and to check the alarms are in working order at the start of any new tenancy.

The Fire and Rescue authorities will be given one-off funding to enable them to support landlords to comply, providing them with free alarms. As something that has been long campaigned for by the Chief Fire Officers Association as well as the LGA, this is welcome news. We hope that the funding will be sufficient and that provisions will be made for the on-going compliance by landlords, once the initial transition is over. It is not clear whether there will be funding to enforce compliance which is disappointing. If compliance is to lie with local authorities then they need additional funding – they cannot be expected to stretch their already-straining budgets any further.

It was also announced that alongside the targeted regulation for carbon monoxide alarms that the government ‘intends to pursue non-regulatory alternatives to encourage installation of carbon monoxide alarms in all private rented sector properties’. This is less welcome – we know that these initiatives to encourage landlords to comply rarely work, which is why we need regulation so that it is properly enforced. We also would like further clarification as to which rooms will be considered most at risk from high carbon monoxide levels and how this will be determined as in these rooms it will be mandatory to have carbon monoxide alarms.

We are also disappointed that they have not addressed any electrical safety standards that we have campaigned for in these regulations. More people die and are injured from faulty electrical equipment and installation than by fire so a legal requirement for landlords to regularly inspect and test electricity is desperately needed.

There has been no exact date about when this will be laid before Parliament (which rises in just 19 days!), although assurances have been given that it will be. Government has stated that the regulations will come into force on 10th October 2015 so we are hopeful there will be no hold up on this.

Though these regulations do not go as far as we would like them to, it’s great to have some good news for renters! 

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