The Strange Case of ‘The Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarm (England) Regulations 2015’

The Regulation That Makes No Sense

Earlier  this year (2015) private landlords started to get notifications from their letting agents that there was new government legislation in the pipeline that they needed to be aware of. It related to the fitting of carbon monoxide detectors in their rental properties and quotes were sent out  to landlords for having them fitted in order to avoid fines.

The proposed new legislation seemed to make absolute sense.

We have all heard the tragic stories of people losing their lives due to the consequences that can arise from the failure to service or maintain gas fires, in particular.

When gas is burned in an open flued device it is important that the correct amount of gas and air is used in the combustion process. If this occurs then the products of combustion (the exhaust gases produced by the fire or boiler) are carbon dioxide and water; which are safe and non-toxic.

If this does not happen and incomplete combustion occurs, then the products of combustion are likely to include carbon monoxide, which is potentially lethal.

Amongst other reasons, proper servicing is needed to ensure that airways are kept clear, so that the all-important oxygen gets through to gas burners.

The surprise in the new carbon monoxide alarm regulations

At the start of October the new regulations were duly published and for some bizarre reason they do not include gas appliances at all.

The regulation only says this: ‘(ii) a carbon monoxide alarm is equipped in any room of the premises which is used wholly or partly as living accommodation and contains a solid fuel burning combustion appliance’

Solid fuel burning. That means things like coal fires and wood burning stoves; there is no mention of gas appliances.

The new regulations can be found here:

We went to the government’s website for clarification and read what they had to say on the relevant page:

We even dialled the number at the bottom of the web page, above, and queried the new law via the helpline, using this number:  030 3444 0000.

The person we spoke to confirmed that the new rules did not apply to gas appliances.

Undeterred we ploughed on and found a Q&A booklet published by the government, here:

The Q&A or FAQ mentioned the question that most interested us and confirmed that the new carbon monoxide legislation does not apply to gas appliances. Though, if you read question 9, below, you can see that they are keen to hedge the issue – see the bit that we have highlighted in blue.

  1. Does a carbon monoxide alarm need to be installed in rooms with gas or oil appliances? No. Carbon monoxide alarms are only required in rooms containing a solid fuel burning appliance (i.e. rooms containing an open fire, log burning stove, etc.). However, as gas appliances can emit carbon monoxide, we would expect and encourage reputable landlords to ensure that working carbon monoxide alarms are installed in rooms with these.

The Moral Of The Story

So, if you are a reputable landlord fit a carbon monoxide detector where gas is involved. If you are not reputable, then you need not bother. And plenty won’t.

Presumably there must be some really good and sensible reason why they have come up with this quirk in the new law, but we certainly have yet to work out what it is. Please do let us know if you are any the wiser.

One sensible part of the new regulation is that it is now mandatory to fit fire detectors on every floor of a rented house where there is at least one room that is considered to be part of a living accommodation.