New Law relating to Smoke Alarms  in your home moved from February 2021 to February 2022

Scottish Government announced that its smoke alarm legislation will be delayed by 12 months.

Q: Why has this fire safety law been put back until 2022?

A: Basically the Scottish Government has had a avalanche of backlash due to their lack of public awareness, cost and timing of this new law amid a Covid-19 Pandemic.

Q: Okay, so what types of housing will be covered by this new legislation by February 2022?

A: All homes will be covered by the new law, as it is important that all homes should be safe for occupants regardless of tenure. It will be the property owner’s responsibility to meet the new standard.

 

Q: Why are they introducing this legislation now?

 

A: Following fire at Grenfell Tower in London, a Scottish Ministerial Group on Building and Fire Safety was established to review Scotland’s building and fire safety regulatory frameworks. The legislation changes they made will help to ensure that everyone in Scotland has the same level of protection whether they own or rent their home.

 

Q: How many automatic home alarms will be required to meet the standards then?

A: The new standard will require that:

·         one smoke alarm installed in the room most frequently used for general daytime living purposes

·         one smoke alarm in all circulation spaces on every storey, such as hallways, corridors and landings

·         one heat alarm should be installed in every kitchen

If possible, all alarms should be ceiling mounted and interlinked.

Where there is a carbon-fuelled appliance (such as boilers, fires (including open fires) and heaters) or a flue, a carbon monoxide (CO) detector is also required which does not need to be linked to the fire alarms.

 

Q: But I already have smoke alarms fitted in my home but I don't think they are interlinked – do I need to upgrade them to interlinked ones?

 

A: Yes – the requirement is to have all your alarms interlinked. This is because you may not hear the alarm closest to the fire but, by having an interlinked system, you would hear the alarm immediately.

 

Q: So are the requirements different for people who need specialist alarms, for example hearing impaired?

 

A: The law applies to all homes in Scotland, all homes must meet the minimum standard and, where there is a requirement for specialist equipment for deaf people, then this equipment should be installed in addition to the equipment installed to meet the standard.

 

Q: If I own my home – who is responsible to pay for these alarms?

A: Any costs will be the responsibility of home owners and landlords. The cost of the alarms will vary according to what you currently have in place and of course the alarms you choose to install. It has been estimated by the Scottish Ministerial Group that the cost for an average three bedroom house which requires three smoke alarms, one heat alarm and one carbon monoxide detector will be around £220. This is based on radio frequency (RF) wireless types of alarms that you can install and programme/wirelessly link without the need for an electrician for installing a hard-wired alarm such as Fireangel.

 

Q: My god, there are lots of different types of alarms available – which ones should I get and where can I buy them?

A: You can install the tamper proof long-life (10 year) lithium battery alarms or alternatively mains-wired alarms. Mains-wired alarms are cheaper than the tamper proof long-life battery alarms. Mains-wired alarms will, however, require to be installed by an electrician which will be an additional cost to consider, and you may need a building warrant if you live in flat.

The alarms that meet the new standard, both tamper proof long-life lithium battery alarms and mains-wired alarms, are widely available in DIY stores and found online.

Q: And how long do I have to comply?

A: The regulations will come into force in February 2021, meaning that homeowners and landlords have until then to comply. However, installing alarms at the earliest opportunity will provide improved fire safety in your home.

Q: But what if I am a tenant of the local authority or a housing association - when will my home have these alarms?

A: Council and social landlords (local authority and housing association landlords) know of the new standard and have been working to ensure that the new alarms are in place by the 1 February 2021 however some of their plans may have been affected by the restrictions on going into homes to carry out work during the corona-virus pandemic, The Minister for Local Government, Housing and Planning wrote to all Social landlords on 2 July had set out that landlords should use best endeavours to meet the February 2021 deadline. Where that is not possible then they must have a remedial plan in place for meeting the standard which should be complete by 1 May 2021 at the latest. The standard will be monitored by the Scottish Housing Regulator, who may intervene as they deem appropriate for any non-compliance.

Q: I have shared ownership of my home with a housing association. I have been told that I am responsible for making sure that my house complies with the standard, is this correct?

A: For shared ownership properties, as with other condition standards, responsibilities are set out in the occupancy agreement. However, in general, it is your responsibility as the proportion owner, rather than the registered social landlord, to meet the new fire and smoke alarm standard. 

Q: I am a tenant in a privately rented property – how do I make sure my landlord complies?

A: As the new standards for fire and smoke alarms extend those which currently apply in the Private Rented Sector PRS to housing of all tenures, your landlord should already be complying. The standard is enforced by the right of tenants to apply to the First-tier Tribunal for Scotland (Housing and Property Chamber), so if you believe that your landlord is failing to comply, you can apply to the First-tier Tribunal. Penalties for non-compliance would be determined by the Tribunal.

Q: Will it be necessary for tenements to have linked alarms between individual residences?

A: In a shared property such as a tenement or block of flats there is no requirement for different properties to be linked to each other. There is no requirement for alarms to be fitted in communal areas such as entry halls and stairways.

Q: How will you check that home owners comply?

A: Most home owners want to make their homes as safe as possible and compliance will also form part of any Home Report when you come to sell your home. As this will be a minimum standard for safe houses, local authorities will be able to use their statutory powers to require owners to carry out work on substandard housing, although we would expect any intervention to be proportionate.

Q: Can I still book a free Home Fire Safety Visit from the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS)?

A: SFRS have currently suspended their Home Fire Safety Visits due to COVID, however, you can complete their online Home Fire Safety Checker and they will still carry out visits for people identified as ‘higher risk’. . They are also happy to provide advice over the phone.

Q: Will there be any financial assistance provided to pensioners to help meet the costs of alarm installations?

A: As a general principle, home owners are responsible for the costs of on-going work needed to protect and preserve their own property. As with other housing standards, it will be the responsibility of the homeowner to meet the new fire and carbon monoxide alarm standard. Local authorities have broad discretionary powers to provide advice and assistance to home owners with work needed to look after their homes. The Scottish Fire and Rescue Service recently launched their Make the Call campaign which is aimed at carers, family, friends and of those over fifty  who are most at risk because of an accidental fire in their home.

Q: How will the new regulations impact my household insurance policy?

A: This will be for individual insurance providers to decide whether they include the new requirements in their policies. Insurers may ask if the property is fitted with working smoke alarms and would expect homeowners to ensure that their property meets any applicable standards. If homeowners are unclear on whether this may impact their insurance policy, we would advise them to get in touch with their provider.

Q: I am having an extension added to my home. What types of alarms can I install?

A: While building standards recommend mains operated devices with battery back-up for building work in certain circumstances, tamper proof long-life lithium battery operated devices may be the preferred option for home owners. Section 10 of the Building (Scotland) Act 2003 provides a degree of flexibility when applying the building regulations to alterations, extensions and conversions, and it could be considered that a sealed long-life battery operated system that is interlinked via radio frequency can provide an equal or in some cases, higher level of protection than is required through Building Regulations. Local authority building standards verifiers should take a pragmatic approach when applying the non-mandatory guidance to alterations, extensions and conversions, as contained in the technical handbooks.

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