DO YOU HAVE A RESPONSIBLE LANDLORD?

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DO YOU HAVE A RESPONSIBLE LANDLORD?

Do you have a responsible landlord? It’s now more than six months since the government passed legislation that requires all private landlords in England to install working and regularly tested smoke and CO alarms in all rented properties.

The legislation requires smoke alarms to be fitted on each storey of the property, along with a CO alarm in all rooms considered to be most at risk from high CO levels where a solid fuel appliance is installed.

Landlords are required to check and provide evidence to local government officials that alarms are in working order at the start of all new tenancies and further checks can be done during regular property inspections. Those not abiding by the regulations face fines of up to £5,000.

The British Property Federation says the crackdown is necessary to force the small number of landlords, who did not install alarms in their properties, to bring them up to standard. It adds that although most landlords do everything necessary to ensure the safety and comfort of their tenants, making the installation of working CO and smoke alarms compulsory will give tenants peace of mind and provide clarity to landlords.

While there is still a way to go, campaigns and actions over many years to bolster the use of smoke alarms have thankfully seen usage in homes rise from just 8% in 1988 to over 90% today. The focus must now shift to regular testing to ensure the alarms are working and not providing a false sense of security.

The reality of the UK’s situation is that not only have there been far too few working CO alarms in operation in premises across the UK, around 12%,  but too many are just not fit for purpose. A recent Trading Standards report found that 80% of alarms laboratory tested did not pass the British Standards test, while other research shows that as many as 16% of alarms do not work when they come out of the box, again raising the requirement for landlords to carry our effective tests.

The issue tends to focus on the sensor inside the alarms which has a limited and indeterminable life. The majority of CO alarms carry a 7+ year guarantee, while the majority of sensors are only guaranteed for 2 years, leaving the potential for serious harm or even death if the alarms are not regularly sensor inclusively tested.

In part, the issue lies with the alarm’s test mechanism.  Simply pressing the button, as outlined in the manufacturers’ instructions, is no guarantee of the alarm working effectively as in itself it only tests the battery, buzzer and circuitry in the alarm but does not test the CO sensor or prove that contaminated air is reaching the sensor via the casing vents.

To effectively test an alarm landlords must ensure that the sensor is working and is able to detect gas.  This is best managed using a universal  CO alarm test kit that can be used with all domestic CO alarms. With a calibrated gas test kit like Detectagas® a sufficient and controlled amount of CO can be delivered to test the sensor effectively without risk of harm to the user or the alarm itself.

The trigger point for a European alarm is 300ppm within three minutes. The test response time is typically less than two minutes after which, on successful completion, the alarm is easily reset.

If found to be faulty, tamper-proof stickers are also available that notify residents that the alarm is faulty.  These labels use extra strong glue and a very fragile material that means once it is used it is very hard to remove.  This will prove ideal for testers and  inspectors as it will help ensure that alarms identified as faulty would be virtually impossible for them to be reused.

Residents need to put pressure on their landlords to undertake these tests as carbon monoxide is invisible and deadly. Every year around 50 people die from accidental CO poisoning across the UK, with many of these tragedies avoidable.  It’s now time that landlords step up to their responsibilities to not only avoid a £5,000 fine but also the potential of being held responsible for a tragic accident.

Do you have a responsible landlord?

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