Smoke and carbon monoxide alarms

From the 1 October 2015 private sector landlords are required to ensure that at least one smoke alarm is installed on every storey of their rented property, and that a carbon monoxide alarm is installed in any room which contains a solid fuel burning appliance.

They are also required to ensure that such alarms are in proper working order at the start of each new tenancy.

These regulations also amend the conditions which must be included in a mandatory or other licence of houses in multiple occupation under Part 2 and 3 of the Housing Act 2004.

These requirements are enforced by the Local Housing Authority.

It is a requirement of the Local Housing Authority to have a statement of principles which act as guidance and sets out how they will enforce the regulations.

The statement of principles sets out the approach to enforcement of the Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarm regulations which follows the principles of the Regulators Code and apply these in a consistent manner to impose penalties if breaches of the Regulations are identified.

The statement also sets out our approach to determine the amounts that may be appropriate penalties for breaches of the regulation and the factors we consider relevant when considering written representations and objections from businesses subject to proposed fines.

The government requires local authorities to be open and transparent regarding the civil penalty and to publish the statement of principles which they will follow when determining the amount of penalty charge.  These principles must be published on the website.

Penalty Notice Charging and Remedial Notice Policy for Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarm.

1. Principles

1.1 The regulations require the local housing authority to publish a statement of principles that they will use to assess penalty charges and remedial notices.

1.2 Landlords renting out property on a specified tenancy are taken as running businesses and should have an appropriate level of competence to provide smoke and carbon monoxide alarms.

1.3 Penalty charges will be assessed depending on the circumstances, taking into account the risk to the occupants of the property, and the knowledge of the regulation that the relevant landlord might reasonably be expected to have.

1.5 The maximum £5,000 penalty charge will be levied where a landlord has failed to install alarms without good cause when issued with a Remedial Notice.

Reductions from the maximum penalty charge:
• 50% where the relevant landlord pays the penalty charge within 14 days of the Penalty Charge  Notice being served.

1.6 Landlords have a duty to ensure that there are working smoke and carbon monoxide alarms in place at the start of each letting. Therefore it is possible for repeat offences to occur in a single property.

2.1 If the Local Authority has ‘reasonable grounds’ to believe a landlord is in breach of the requirements in regulation 4, the authority must serve a remedial notice on the relevant landlord.

2.2 The remedial notice must contain the information set out in regulations 5(2).  It must inform the landlord which property it relates to, the reason it is being issued and what action the landlord needs to take next.

2.3 ‘reasonable grounds’ would include being informed by the tenant, lettings agent or housing officer that the required alarms are not installed.

2.4 The regulations do not require the enforcing authority to enter the property or prove non compliance to issue a remedial notice.  This is ‘intelligence led’ enforcement.

3.1 The landlord has 28 days beginning with the day on which the remedial notice is served to comply with the notice.  If the landlord can show they have taken all reasonable steps, other than legal proceedings, to comply with the notice, they will not be in breach of the duty to comply with the remedial notice in regulation 6.

3.2 If a landlord does not prove they have taken all reasonable steps, it is then up to the local authority to decide if they are in breach, by judging on a balance of probabilities.

3.3 Some examples of evidence could be dated photographs, confirmation by the tenant or installation records.  This information could be provided by the local authority as a package with the remedial notice.

3.4 It is considered satisfactory, if the tenant confirms that there has been no remedial action taken.  This would satisfy, on balance of probabilities that the landlord is in breach.

 

4.1 If the local authority is satisfied, on balance of probabilities, that a landlord has breached the duty to comply with the remedial notice within 28 days, the authority must arrange for remedial action to be taken, where the occupier consents.

4.2 This is to ensure that tenants are protected by working alarms and may involve installing a required alarm, repairing an installed alarm or checking an installed alarm is in proper working order.  The decision on whether to install a ‘hard wired’ or battery operated alarm, will be carried out on a case by case basis.

4.3 The local authority can impose a civil penalty of up to £5,000 on landlords who do not comply with the remedial notice.

4.4 Where a local authority intends to impose a penalty, it must give written notice of its intention to do so – ‘a penalty charge notice’. This sets out certain required information including the reasons for the penalty, the amount of the penalty, and that the landlord is required, within a specified period, to pay the penalty charge or request a review.

4.5 There is no other provision within the regulations for the enforcement authority to redeem costs for any remedial works carried out.  Collection of the civil penalty fine is the only method.
 

5.1 If a landlord does not agree with a penalty charge notice, they can make a request to the relevant local authority for it to be reviewed.  This request must be made in writing and within the time period specified in the penalty charge notice.

5.2 If a request is received by the local authority to review the notice, they must consider the representation and decide whether to, confirm, vary or withdraw the notice, and serve a notice of its decision on the landlord.

5.3 Where the authority decides to confirm or vary a penalty charge notice, it must inform the landlord that they can appeal to First Tier Tribunal.
 

6.1 To ensure that the enforcement process is administered fairly, landlords are provided with a means of appeal against penalties.

6.2 A landlord may appeal to the First Tier Tribunal if the penalty charge notice is confirmed or varied by the local authority after a review.

6.3 If an appeal is lodged, the penalty cannot be enforced until the appeal is disposed of.  Appeals can be made on the grounds that the decision of the local authority to vary or confirm the penalty charge notice was based on a factual error, was wrong in law, or was unreasonable for any other reason.  Appeals can also be made on the grounds that the amount of penalty is unreasonable.
 

7.1 Any notice served on a landlord under the regulations may be amended, suspended, or revoked in writing at any time.

7.2 If a remedial notice is suspended and the local authority decides to re-instate this once the compliance period has run out or is shortly about to, the recommendation is that the authority acts reasonably and reissues the notice to start a new 28 day compliance period.