On 1 February 2022, new regulations came into force in Scotland meaning that all homes must have interlinked fire alarms. Scotland is the first UK nation to implement the change, which comes in response to the fire in Grenfell Tower, west London, where 72 people died.
The rules apply to every home in Scotland, whether owner occupied or rented, and it is the responsibility of the property’s owner to implement them. So, in privately rented properties, the landlord must ensure smoke alarms meet the standard. This was already the case from rented properties – the change just extends the rules to all homes.
To explain the rules around smoke alarms and how they apply to landlords in Scotland, we answer a few frequently asked questions about the issue.
According to the regulations, every home must have one smoke alarm in the living room (or the room used most frequently) along with one smoke alarm in every hallway and on each landing. A heat alarm must be fitted in the kitchen. All these alarms should be ceiling mounted and they must be interlinked.
In addition to the smoke and heat alarms, you must install a carbon monoxide detector in any room with a carbon-fuelled appliance such as a boiler, gas or coal fire, woodburning stove or flue. This does not need to be linked to your smoke alarm system.
One smoke alarm can cover the whole space up to a distance of 7.5 metres. If the open plan area includes a kitchen, this should be a heat alarm.
As the name suggests, interlinked alarms are connected to each other, usually wirelessly. This means that when one alarm sounds the others will too, making it more likely that people in the property will be alerted to a fire – possibly saving lives.
According to the Scottish government, you can choose to fit sealed battery alarms or mains-wired alarms. The battery type alarms have tamper-proof units containing long-life lithium batteries that last for up to 10 years. Mains-wired alarms should also be replaced this frequently. Both types of alarm are interlinked by radio frequency. While they are wireless, they do not need WiFi to operate.
You may be able to fit sealed battery alarms yourself, however, mains-wired alarms require a qualified electrician.
Compliant alarms can be bought online or in DIY stores. Before you buy, check that each alarm has the appropriate British Standard reference:
There is more information in the Scottish government’s tolerable standard guidance for landlords.
The estimated cost for a three-bedroom house needing three smoke alarms, one heat alarm and one carbon monoxide detector is £220, based on sealed battery alarms, which can be installed without needing an electrician.
Even before February 2022, the new standards already applied to the privately rented sector. This means that your rental property should already comply with the rules. If it doesn’t, you should install interlinked alarms as soon as possible, to make sure you’re following the law and to protect your tenants. If you don’t, your tenants could apply to the First-tier Tribunal for Scotland to ask it to enforce the rules.
The alarms within each flat need to be interlinked. They do not need to link to other properties in the building and alarms are not required in communal areas such as halls and stairways.
As the sensors in the alarm degrade over time, the whole unit needs to be replaced to ensure it can continue to detect heat or smoke. This is why the alarm has a limited lifespan. Sealed, tamper-proof units are safer because the prevent people from removing batteries, which has led to several tragedies in the past.
If you’d like advice about your legal obligations as a landlord in Scotland, we’d be happy to help. Contact us about our services for landlords today.