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Fire and Smoke Alarms from February 2022: Landlord/Factor perspective

Fire and Smoke Alarms from February 2022: Landlord/Factor perspective

The Scottish Government has introduced new rules for fire and smoke alarms across homes in Scotland. From February 2022, every home in Scotland must have:

  • A smoke alarm in the living room or most commonly used room
  • A smoke alarm in circulation spaces such as hallways or landings
  • A heat alarm in every kitchen

All alarms need to be mounted on the ceiling and interlinked. They can either be sealed battery alarms or mains wired alarms.

You will also require a carbon monoxide alarm where there are fixed combustion appliances such as boilers and wood burners

The Housing (Scotland) Act 1987 will be amended to reflect the new rules.

These rules already apply to private rented properties and new-builds, but from February 2022 will be extended to all homes in Scotland. It will be the responsibility of the home owner or landlord to ensure that all properties meet the required standard.

Social housing perspective

Installation of these new alarms could be an expensive outlay for social landlords, as the Government estimate that it will cost £220 to bring an average three bedroom house up to the required standard. Although the Scottish Government has made over £15 million of loan funding available for social landlords to ensure that tenants are safe in their homes, potential problems and interesting legal problems could arise.

For example, what can a landlord do if the tenant fails to provide access to the property in order to install the necessary alarms? Social landlords should already be lettering tenants regarding the installation of these new alarms. If this does not encourage engagement from tenants, we can send formal letters and if needed, raise a court action for access to the property. Social landlords can currently force access for gas safety checks, however it is unclear whether similar powers will apply to the installation of smoke and heat alarms.

Local authorities will be responsible for requiring home owners and landlords to bring their properties up to the new standard. While it is not a criminal offence if landlords are unable to meet the standard, non-compliance could have an effect on insurance. Different home or building insurers may require that the insured property complies with the Fire Safety laws, having properties without the necessary alarms in place could invalidate any insurance.

This could also apply to factors. The alarms do not need to be in place in common areas, so factors have no responsibility to ensure compliance in privately owned properties. However, factors are likely to be responsible for the building insurance. It is not clear if factors can take any active steps to force installation nor what approach insurers will take. As a best case scenario insurers are likely to increase premiums where landlords or factors cannot warrant that all properties have the required alarms, but a worst case scenario could be invalid insurance claims.

The potential issue with insurance could have a knock on effect on Standard Securities, which could require valid home insurance. The Scottish government have advised anyone with such concerns to contact their insurers.

We are waiting on further guidance from both the Scottish Government and insurers on these issues. In the meantime, please contact a member of our Property department for further advice. 

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Written by : Mark Oswald