Smoke / Heat / Carbon Monoxide Regulations in Student Accommodation – What’s the Fuss?
Landlords, letting agents and accommodation operators renting out student accommodation are required to comply with health and safety legislation and there are a number of different laws which govern smoke alarms, carbon monoxide alarms, heat sensors and fire safety.
It is vital that you are familiar with these rules and that you comply with the requirements in full. These requirements are outlined in greater detail below.
Smoke and Carbon Monoxide
For smoke and carbon monoxide alarms, the main legislation to be aware of is the Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarm Regulations 2015, which came into effect in October 2015. According to this law, private landlords are legally required to have a smoke alarm on every storey of a property used as accommodation.
The law stipulates that this relates to any storey that is used "wholly or partly" as living accommodation. Living accommodation refers to any room used for the primary purpose of living, or where significant time is spent. For the purposes of this legislation, even a bathroom is considered living accommodation.
Moreover, the legislation also insists that landlords have a carbon monoxide alarm fitted in any room with a solid fuel burning appliance, with examples including wood burning stoves and coal fires. All alarms must also be checked and in full working order at the beginning of each new tenancy, with testing on day one.
Fire Safety and Heat Sensors
In addition to the aforementioned legislation, property owners must also be aware of the Consumer Protection Act 1987, which means that it is a criminal act to provide soft furnishings that do not carry the required labelling. The label should carry the "Carelessness Causes Fire" warning, along with descriptions of the filling materials, the covering materials and whether or not a fire-resistant interliner is included.
Heat sensors should be placed on the ceiling of the kitchen, but it is crucial to understand that heat sensors do not serve as a satisfactory replacement for smoke detectors and should instead exist alongside them. A fire blanket should also be provided and this should be left in close proximity to the cooker.
Failure to live up to these obligations is punishable by a fine of up to £5,000.
Responsibility for the Checks
As previously stated, landlords are responsible for checking that all alarms and detectors are in full working order and are required to test these devices on the first day of a new tenancy. The tenancy is classed as starting on the first day covered by the tenancy agreement, regardless of when a student actually moves in.
The legislation does not rule on the type of alarm that should be used. However, at Student Pavilion, we recommend that smoke alarms and heat sensors run off the mains and are also fitted with rechargeable batteries. The benefit here is that the alarm will then still work, even in the event of a power cut.
While carbon monoxide detectors are only legally required in rooms with a solid fuel burning appliance, it is best practice to include them in rooms with gas appliances as well.
Landlords do not have any legal responsibility for continued checking of alarms after the initial check at the start of a tenancy. However, responsible landlords should advise tenants to check alarms regularly. Generally, checking alarms once a month is considered to be sufficient here.
If a landlord is unable to gain entry to the student housing they are renting out, due to tenants denying them access, the advice is to write to the tenant, outlining the legalities of smoke, heat and carbon monoxide detectors and explaining that access is required to comply. This should be done as soon as possible.
Local authorities that have reasonable grounds to suspect a landlord has not complied with these regulations will issue a notice detailing the nature of the problem and the action that needs to be taken. From that point, you will have 28 days to comply with the rules and provide evidence. Failure can result in a £5,000 fine.
It is important to understand that the purpose of the legislation is to increase safety and transparency. At Student Pavilion, we expect all landlords, letting agents and accommodation operators advertising student accommodation to prioritise safety and adhere to the Unipol Code of Standards.