Updates to fire detection systems in rented property

The Private Rented Housing Panel (PRHP) has recently revised their guidance on the provision for detecting fires / giving warning in the event of fire.

Regard has to be given to this guidance in relation to determining whether a house meets the Repairing Standard mentioned in Section 13(1)(f) of the Housing (Scotland) Act 2006.

Overview

The PRHP have updated guidance on the provision of smoke detectors in rented property. This is following on from updates to the Building Standards. If Landlords are to meet the Repairing Standard, most owners will now need to upgrade their property with mains powered, interlinked alarms (HMO property will already exceed the new standard required). There should now be at least:

  • One functioning smoke alarm in every room which is frequently used by the occupants for general daytime living purposes
  • One functioning smoke alarm in every circulation space, such as hallways and landings
  • One heat alarm in every kitchen

What does this mean in practical terms?

A mains powered, interlinked smoke alarm in living rooms and halls with the equivalent heat detector in kitchens is required in every rented property if the Landlord wants to abide by the Repairing Standard. This is a significant step up from the previous Repairing Standard requirements which stated that one mains smoke detector was required per floor (linked together should there be more than one).

According to the Scottish Association of Landlords (SAL), Landlords should ensure their property is upgraded with smoke/heat detectors as soon as reasonably practical. This clearly has cost implications; a qualified contractor will need to install an alarm system which is in accordance with BS5839 Part 6.

The costs involved will depend on how much work is required to install the alarm system and will have to be assessed on an individual basis but it will depend on the number of units required and labour time involved.

In some properties it will be very straightforward to install the detectors, in others, more work will be needed.

Currently, there is not a requirement to install any alarms in bedrooms (that is not to say that they will not move the goalposts in the future).

Viewpoints

It is the view of many I have spoken to that these new regulations are rather over the top, especially given that local authority social housing will not have to comply with these new regulations. SAL have told us that they are campaigning for a change in the wording of the Repairing Standard to prevent constant onerous updates, such as this, whenever there is a change in the building standards regulations.

Should the campaigning be successful, it is possible that there would be a change of stance from the PRHP, however, it must be stressed that this may never happen.

According to the PRHP and SAL (for more detail see point 2.11.9 in the technical guidance), the units do have to be mains powered rather than battery units. This is a shame as there are some excellent sealed battery units which last for 10 years and can be linked without wires. Obviously this type of unit would negate the requirement for potentially complicated and disruptive wiring.

In order to protect yourselves should a fire in your property causes injury or death, Splendid Property Management strongly recommends that landlords comply with the revised guidance and install the necessary detectors as soon as possible.

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