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Smoke and fire awareness in properties

Tuesday 26 November 2019

Darren Clapp, CEO of KPR Software, shares his views on the importance of smoke alarms in properties.

As of the 1 October 2015, the Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarm (England) Regulations 2015, requires private sector landlords to adhere to legislation, a few key points being:

  • Install at least one smoke alarm on each storey of the premises.
  • Install a carbon monoxide alarm in any room used as living accommodation where solid fuel is used, e.g. an open fire, log burner, etc.
  • The landlord must make sure the alarms are in working order at the start of each new tenancy.

Darren highlights that some property managers across the country are neglecting the severity of some clear, basic issues and not helping themselves when due diligence is a must for the unforeseen circumstance.

Common questions to ask property managers in relation to fire safety

1) Do you manage property that has a back boiler? Is there a CO monitor installed? If not, why?

In the UK, carbon monoxide poisoning in the home accounts for an average of 50 recorded deaths per year and up to 4000 medical visits, according to the department of health and social care. – (The Guardian)

The Health and Safety Executive recently issued a warning about the dangers of using redundant back boilers. Carbon Monoxide is a deadly gas which can cause illness, permanent health damage and far too often, death. It is formed by the incomplete combustion of fossil fuels; gas, coal, wood and oil.

2) Is there is a CO monitor in place, if there is a flueless wall mounted gas fire, or open fuel source in the property.

With a gas fire, especially with decorative fuel effect, an air vent is required, usually if it has over 7.1 kw input.

All solid fuel open fireplaces need an air vent and the size of the air vent should be 50 per cent of the throat opening to the chimney.

Due diligence from property managers

I often ask property managers if they have proof at the start of each tenancy that smoke detectors have been tested. I cannot stress enough the importance of due diligence from property managers, as this is vital information required, should the unthinkable happen.

What an agent should be looking for when testing smoke alarms in properties

A property manager should be aware that mains and battery smoke detectors have expiry dates, because if a smoke alarm is working, but out of date, it is in the landlord / agent’s best interest to replace it immediately. If something was to go wrong, there is no defence if the date has expired, and you have not acted in due diligence, as you cannot rely on the tenants to check them.

We cannot simply assume that our alarms will take care of us, if we don’t take care of them. The importance of due diligence is highlighted more today than it ever has been, following the Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act 2018.

The UK Fire and Rescue Service are called to over 50,000 (140 a day) fires in the home per year, which result in over 500 deaths and over 11,000 injuries, many of which could be prevented with early warning, enabling them to get out in time.

You are twice as likely to die in a house fire that has no smoke alarm, than a house that does. (fireservice.co.uk)

Regular testing of our smoke alarms is not something that many of us even think about, yet these devices are something which we rely on to save lives.

Key points to help agents and landlords at various stages throughout a tenancy

1) At the beginning of the tenancy a smoke alarm would have been installed and tested, as per noted on the Check In/Inventory/Schedule of Condition, which will also have the locations throughout the property. During the tenancy period, smoke alarms should be looked after by the tenant, but must also be thoroughly date checked, tested and recorded by the agency, by act of due diligence.

2) During midterm tenancy, a smoke alarm needs regular testing and maintenance, so, I would suggest making tenants aware of their responsibilities:

  • Once a week - the alarm should be checked by pressing the test button.
  • Once a year – the casing of the smoke alarm should be vacuumed and wiped to ensure dust isn't blocking the sensor chamber.

3) If the smoke alarm is making an intermittent bleeping/chirping noise, then to follow these steps:

  • Check that the smoke alarm is definitely the source of the bleeping/chirping; make sure the noise isn't coming from another alarm (carbon monoxide/gas/burglar alarm) by process of elimination.
  • Clean the alarm as per the instructions above.
  • Test the alarm by pressing the test button.
  • Change the battery (unless it is mains powered).
  • Check that there is always clear access to escape routes.

Darren welcomes agents to take advantage of KPRs free, no-obligation demonstrations, offering peace of mind.

INSPECT. REPORT. COMPLY

For more information, please visit www.kpr.global or call: 020 8542 2333 / email: d.clapp@kpr.global