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The Tenant’s Guide to Fire and Carbon Monoxide

As a tenant, you should know that your landlord has a clear-cut and undeniable responsibility to ensure that your rights and safety are prioritized at the utmost. One of the most obvious risks landlords and tenants alike face are those that involve the risks of fire and carbon monoxide poisoning.

carbon monoxide alarm

Fortunately, regulations have been in place requiring all properties to possess the minimum of one functional smoke alarm on each floor and a carbon monoxide alarm in any room of the premises which is used wholly or partly as living accommodation and contains a solid fuel burning combustion appliance.

The landlord is also responsible for periodically inspecting and maintaining any gas appliances installed within the property. The inspection must happen at regular 12 month intervals and must be performed by a licensed Gas Safety engineer. Tenants must be supplied with a copy of said inspection reports.

This regulation was formulated in order to make landlords inform tenants as to which fixtures, appliances, or devices could pose a carbon monoxide poisoning risk.

Keeping up with the constantly changing world of compliance can become quite a tricky proposition for both landlords and tenants alike.

This guide will help you learn what risks you should be aware of, what your landlord’s obligations are, and any legal responsibilities you may need to comply with in regards to fire safety in your rented property.

What are the most common causes of fires?

While house fires are steadily experiencing a decline, they remain a significant source of deaths and serious injuries no matter where you are – it is absolutely imperative for landlords and tenants alike to remain vigilant against them. The worst part is, most fires are totally preventable.

Nevertheless, the great majority of house fires are caused by the usual suspects:

    • Appliances –  The great majority of house fires in England are caused by cooking appliances. Electrical appliances may overheat if left on for too long. The same is true for stoves with pots left on and unattended.
    • Smoking – The act of smoking, as well as possessing smoking paraphernalia, poses a significant risk of fires.
    • Candles – While the use of candles have severely declined over the years, they still remain a clear risk of causing fires, particularly when left unattended.
    • Electric heaters – These portable appliances also pose a risk of fires when used around materials that could catch fire, such as paper, fabric or clothes.
    • Electrical wiring – Extension leads that have way too much load can cause fires, as do damaged or old wiring. The same is true for dodgy chargers.

No-one can be 100% safe from fire. Even if you think you have all the bases covered, other tenants may have fire risks all around their part of the property. But being aware of the potential risks is a first step. Work with your landlord to ensure that the property is compliant, even if he or she is already legally obligated to follow standards and practices.

What are the sources of carbon monoxide leaks?

Carbon monoxide (CO) is produced when fuel is burned in appliances such as gas ranges, grills, or furnaces, or in vehicles. Carbon monoxide has no odor, color or flavor. Humans cannot detect its presence and yet, it’s extremely poisonous and can easily suffocate you.

When it enters the body, CO mixes with hemoglobin and prevents the blood from transporting oxygen around the body. CO levels can steadily increase over time, exposing you and your household to a host of dangerous side effects, from weakness, headaches, chest pain, to unconsciousness and death.

The symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning are very similar to other common like food poisoning or flu. Victims often discover the true nature of the problem too late, when significant damage is already sustained.

Which alarms does your landlord need to install?

Your landlord is legally obligated to install smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors in the property he lets.

Smoke alarms need to be present an functional on every floor of the property. For HMO property additional smoke detectors must be located at emergency exits and rooms where smoking is allowed.

All properties that contain fuel-powered appliances must have a CO detector installed in the same room where the appliance is.

CO detectors are extremely important! We can see, smell and even hear a fire, but CO remains completely undetectable to our senses.

How frequent should your landlord inspect such alarms?

Your landlord should inspect and provide confirmation that all alarms that he or she is legally obligated to install are in good working condition on the very first day of your tenancy.

Be vigilant, however – you may opt to pay a visit prior to the first day of your tenancy to check the smoke and CO alarms yourself. You may want to have a trusted electrician or technician to check the alarms with you, if you are not too well-versed in doing so yourself.

If you are renting property from a lower-income landlord, you may want to confirm with him or her if he or she has taken the opportunity to apply for government support in installing smoke and CO alarms – he or she may be eligible for free installation.

That said, do not make compromises with your safety, regardless how hard the landlord may be doing.

What penalties do landlords face for not complying with fire and CO safety regulations?

Some unscrupulous landlords may get away with not complying with fire and carbon monoxide safety regulations – but one fire incident can put them under stiff penalties. From receiving an official notice to install and test alarm, to facing a GBP 5,000 fine for noncompliance. That’s a hefty amount compared to installing the proper alarms.

Furthermore, landlords can face criminal chargers and even prison time if their tenants get hurt due to mismanagement and lack of adequate safety.

Your rights, and above all your safety as a tenant should be of paramount importance to your landlord – and it starts with ensuring that he or she complies with the standards and practices of fire and CO safety.

If, at any time, you detect any potential fire or CO poisoning risk – no matter how insignificant your landlord thinks it is – notify him immediately. You have every right to do so, and your landlord should acknowledge it and act on it immediately as lives are literally in his hands.

If your landlord ignores their responsibilities or actively avoids implementing improvements, seek your local council’s environmental health department.

Useful Articles

Avoid dying or being injured from carbon monoxide poisoning by Stephanie Trotter

Challenges for claimants by Stephanie Trotter

Silent Killer: Gas in the Tank by Stephanie Trotter from Gas International

A hidden killer New Law Journal by Stephanie Trotter


This article is provided as a guide. Any information should be used for research purposes and not as the base for taking legal action. The Tenants' Voice does not provide legal advice and our content does not constitute a client-solicitor relationship.

We advise all tenants to act respectfully with their landlords and letting agents and seek a peaceful resolution to problems with their rented property. For more information, explore the articles in our category.

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