Beware the silent killer that could murder your buy-to-let profits
As a buy-to-let landlord, you must have working smoke alarms fitted in your properties. At a minimum, each property must have a smoke alarm fitted on each of its floors. What you may not know, is that despite having fire alarms fitted, you may still be breaking the law. Your property might also need carbon monoxide alarms.
In this article, we explain the law around carbon monoxide alarms and our recommended actions to stay within the law and avoid a massive fine.
What is carbon monoxide?
Carbon monoxide is among the most lethal of all gases. It’s deadly. At least partly because it’s colourless and odourless. It won’t kill you immediately, but if inhaled for a long period you can wave goodbye to your loved ones.
Where does carbon monoxide come from?
Carbon monoxide is a by-product of burning fossil fuels. It is emitted from gas heating systems, charcoal and wood burners, stoves and gas cookers. Because of its ‘invisible nature,’ it is a home’s equivalent to high blood pressure – a silent killer. It arrives without warning, and without an alarm, you won’t realise there’s a problem until it’s too late.
How do you detect carbon monoxide?
You may have heard of canaries being used in coal mines to detect poisonous gas. That gas is carbon monoxide. If the canary dropped down dead, it was a signal that miners should evacuate the mine.
Today, you don’t have to own a canary and wait for it to drop off its perch.
A carbon monoxide alarm works like a smoke alarm. Installing these where appropriate is not only the law, it’s common sense. Tenant safety should be top of every buy-to-let landlord’s objectives.
Must you fit carbon monoxide alarms?
There are two rules that dictate whether you should fit carbon monoxide alarms in a buy-to-let property. The first concerns the type of property, and the second concerns the locations in the property.
What properties might need carbon monoxide alarms?
The carbon monoxide alarm laws apply to residential properties that are:
- Let under a tenancy agreement
- Subject to a payment of rent by the tenant
- Not shared with the landlord or member of the landlord’s family
Other exemptions include:
- HMO properties, which are controlled by separate laws, rules and regulations
- Student halls of residence
- Hospitals and care homes
What locations in a property must be fitted with carbon monoxide alarms?
Carbon monoxide alarms must be fitted in rooms or areas that contain an appliance that can burn solid fuels, even if they are not used. For example, in older properties that have open fires in the bedrooms but are heated by central heating – unless the fireplace is purely decorative and cannot be used.
While gas can emit carbon monoxide, the law doesn’t cover appliances such as gas fires and gas boilers because gas is not a solid fuel. However, we believe it’s better to be safe than sorry and so recommend that landlords fit carbon monoxide alarms here, too.
Checking carbon monoxide alarms
The rules for checking carbon monoxide alarms are the same as for checking smoke alarms. You must ensure that they are fitted and working when a new tenancy begins.
The law doesn’t stipulate regular checks, but we recommend that landlords check that all smoke and carbon monoxide alarms are working at regular intervals. This is because buy-to-let landlords are obliged to ensure the safety of their tenants.
Now, we’ve heard of landlords who pass the need to check onto tenants. Even the government suggests that tenants should check smoke and carbon monoxide alarms monthly. But, can you be sure that the tenants will check their alarms? We ensure that we check at every property inspection, and our repair reporting application makes it easy for tenants to tell us that their alarm is faulty.
What happens if you don’t have working carbon monoxide alarms?
The local authority in the location of your property is responsible for making sure that buy-to-let landlords are compliant with the law. If it finds you’re flouting the regulations, it will serve a remedial notice. It specifies what action you must take to rectify. You’ll have 28 days to take the actions needed, or to appeal against the notice.
If the tenant refuses access, you will have an excuse for not taking the actions required of you. In such a case, the local authority must arrange for the work to be done – provided it has been given consent to do so.
If you’re in breach of the rules on smoke and carbon monoxide alarms, the local authority could fine you up to £5,000 – per property.
Yours in effortless property management,
Brett Alegre-Wood MARLA MNAEA