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Social Housing Speed Read – Mandatory smoke alarms for all social housing

On 23 November 2021, the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities announced that they will move forward with their plans to introduce laws requiring social housing providers to install smoke alarms in all social housing.

The regulation changes will also require carbon monoxide alarms to be fitted in any social and private rented properties with fixed appliances such as gas boilers or fires (but excluding gas cookers). Landlords and housing providers in private and social rent sectors will also be obliged to repair or replace smoke and carbon monoxide alarms once they are told they are faulty.

The cost of installing and maintaining these alarms will fall to the property owner, however testing will remain the responsibility of the tenant or resident. Guidance on placement and standards of alarms are also to be updated.

These changes stem from the Social Housing White Paper published in 2020, which set out proposals for a wide range of reforms in the social housing sector in an effort to drive up standards for tenants. Smoke alarms have been mandatory in the private rented sector since 2015 so these changes seek to bring the social rented sector in line with the private sector. According to the National Housing Federation, 95% of social homes already have a smoke alarm.

Eddie Hughes MP, Minster for Rough Sleeping and Housing, said:

“Around 20 people are killed each year in accidental carbon monoxide poisoning, and many more through house fires – but we know that simple interventions can stop these needless deaths.

I’m proud that the new rules being proposed will ensure even more homes are fitted with life-saving alarms. Whether you own your home, are privately renting or in social housing – everyone deserves to feel safe and this is an incredibly important step in protecting those at risk.”

The change has also been welcomed by the National Fire Chiefs Council, who said that the regulations will “bring consistency and greater protection to those living in both the private and social rented homes”.

The Government has expressed their intention to bring forward legislation “as soon as parliamentary time allows”. Changes will be brought forward through the Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarm (England) Regulations 2015 and the statutory guidance (Approved Document J) supporting Part J of the Building Regulations.

If you have any questions on the above and how it will affect social housing providers, or any other questions as a social housing provider, please do not hesitate to contact John Murray or a member of our expert Social Housing Team.

Please note that this briefing is designed to be informative, not advisory and represents our understanding of English law and practice as at the date indicated. We would always recommend that you should seek specific guidance on any particular legal issue.

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