The law on fire and smoke alarms in your home is changing, and it is important to be aware of these changes coming into force on 1st February 2022. The legislation amends the standard for domestic properties in Scotland and was proposed (following public consultation) after the Grenfell Tower fire in London in June 2017. The legislation does not just affect properties which are let out, but all homes in Scotland and it is therefore crucial that there is an understanding of the new measures.
What does the legislation mean?
As of 1st February 2022, every home must have interlinked smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors wherever there is a carbon-fuelled appliance . “Interlinked” simply means that if one alarm goes off, they all go off, so you will always hear an alarm wherever you are in your home. Clearly this is to ensure that you have maximum safety in your home to avoid further tragic cases such as Grenfell.
The new legislation states every home must have one smoke alarm in the living room (or the room you use most), one smoke alarm in every hallway or landing, and one heat alarm in the kitchen. All smoke and heat alarms should be mounted on the ceiling and, as mentioned, they should be interlinked.
If you have a carbon-fuelled appliance in any room (e.g. a boiler, fire, heater or flue), you must also have a carbon monoxide detector in that room. This does not however need to be linked to the fire alarms.
There are two types of alarms that can be used – either sealed battery alarms or mains-wired alarms. Both types of alarm need to be linked by radio frequency however do not require WiFi. If you opt to use battery alarms, they must be sealed tamper-proof units and have long-life lithium batteries, which can last up to 10 years. You may be able to fit these types of alarms yourself rather than requiring an Electrician. Mains-wired alarms are cheaper but if you use them, they must be fitted by a qualified Electrician and must be replaced every 10 years. Of course bear in mind that you may also need to redecorate after fitting them. If you also need a carbon monoxide alarm and it is battery-operated, it must have a sealed battery for the duration of its lifespan.
What about flats?
Different homes in a shared property like a tenement or block of flats do not need to be linked to each other. Further there is no need for alarms to be fitted in communal areas such as entry halls and stairways. That does not mean to say that such further steps are not recommended, however at present they are not a legal requirement.
As a landlord what should you do?
If you are a landlord, not only do you need to think about your own home but also any property which you currently let out. Local Authorities and Social Housing Landlords are currently working on ensuring their properties meet the new requirements. However any individuals who have purchased their property through a shared ownership scheme are deemed liable to ensure their property has the requisite alarms and meet all costs in doing so.
There will be those that are concerned that they will not be able to fund the new alarms in their home due to the rising cost of living. There is financial assistance available for elderly and disabled homeowners on low incomes, however others will have to find the funds to make the requisite changes.
There is not a list of approved suppliers albeit any units fitted still must meet the minimum standards set out by the legislation. There certainly is a lot to think about here, and many homeowners will be concerned that they will not be compliant in time for the changes coming into effect.
As this will be a minimum standard for safe houses, Local Authorities will be able to use their statutory powers to require owners to carry out work on substandard housing. However, any intervention must be proportionate and reasonable and where owners are unable to meet the standard, it is not a criminal offence. No homeowner will be penalised if they are unable to ensure compliance by 1st February 2022 No doubt some will therefore ask, why bother? Naturally most home owners want to make their homes as safe as possible in case the unthinkable happens. Further if you are thinking of selling your property, this will be something that purchasers will be taking into consideration. Surveyors are starting to comment on compliance in Home Reports, and mortgage lenders will no doubt give this point some thought going forward.
It is also vital to bear in mind that non-compliance may cause complications with your household insurance. Housing Secretary Shona Robison said the Association of British Insurers has stated that, although insurers might ask customers questions about whether their property is fitted with working fire alarms, “they are not likely to ask questions about specific standards. Anyone who is unclear on their policy terms and conditions in relation to the new law should speak to their insurer”. One leading insurer AXA has already stated that their customers’ policies will not be void due to non-compliance however it is wise to check with your chosen insurer on their specific requirements. It is perhaps worth bearing in mind that insurers’ requirements can change very quickly so what might be their position now may not necessarily be the position in the future.
If you are considering marketing your property this year, familiarise yourself with the new laws and contact us to discuss any changes you need to make in good time.
For further guidance on the legislation, please see here.