On 1 February 2022, new Scottish fire safety regulations came into force 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. In privately rented properties, the landlord must ensure smoke alarms meet the standard. This was already the case for 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.
What does the new legislation say about fire and smoke alarms in Scotland?
To meet the new law, every home in Scotland 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 in the kitchen must also be installed. All alarms installed should be ceiling mounted and each alarm must be interlinked.
What about carbon monoxide alarms?
In addition to the smoke and heat alarms, you must also have 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.
What if the property is open plan?
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. In either case it will still require to be linked with the smoke and heat alarms installed in any other areas of the house where alarms are required.
What are interlinked smoke and heat alarms?
As the name suggests, interlinked alarms are connected to each other, usually wirelessly. Being interlinked means if one alarm sounds the interlinked smoke alarms will too, making it more likely that people in the property will be alerted to a fire – possibly saving lives.
What type of alarm do I need?
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.
Do I need an electrician to fit interlinked alarms?
You may be able to fit sealed battery alarms yourself, however, mains-powered smoke alarms require a qualified electrician.
Where can I buy the correct alarms?
Compliant alarms can be bought online or in DIY stores. Before you buy, check that each new alarm has the appropriate British Standard reference:
- smoke alarms – BS EN14604:2005
- heat alarms – BS 5446-2:2003
- carbon monoxide detector – British Kitemark EN 50291-1
There is more information in the Scottish government’s tolerable standard guidance for landlords.
How much will it cost to upgrade my alarm system?
The estimated cost for a three-bedroom house needing three new smoke alarms installed, one heat alarm and one carbon monoxide detector is £220, based on sealed battery alarms, which can be installed without needing an electrician.
What if the smoke alarms installed in my property aren’t compliant?
Even before February 2022, the new alarm law standards already applied to the privately rented sector. This means that your rental property should already comply with the new 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.
What if my property is in a block of flats?
Within each flat the smoke and heat alarms must be interlinked. They do not need to be interlinked to other properties in the building and alarms are not required in communal areas such as halls and stairways.
Why do I need a sealed battery unit rather than replaceable batteries?
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.