Landlords will be required by law to install working smoke and carbon monoxide alarms in their properties.
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Landlords will be required by law to install working smoke and carbon monoxide alarms in their properties, under measures announced by Housing Minister Brandon Lewis (11 March 2015).
The move will help prevent up to 26 deaths and 670 injuries a year.
The measure is expected to take effect from October 2015, and comes with strong support after a consultation on property condition in the private rented sector.
England’s 46 fire and rescue authorities are expected to support private landlords in their own areas to meet their new responsibilities with the provision of free alarms, with grant funding from government.
This is part of wider government moves to ensure there are sufficient measures in place to protect public safety, while at the same time avoiding regulation which would push up rents and restrict the supply of homes, limiting choice for tenants.
Housing Minister Brandon Lewis said:
In 1988 just 8% of homes had a smoke alarm installed – now it’s over 90%.
The vast majority of landlords offer a good service and have installed smoke alarms in their homes, but I’m changing the law to ensure every tenant can be given this important protection.
But with working smoke alarms providing the vital seconds needed to escape a fire, I urge all tenants to make sure they regularly test their alarms to ensure they work when it counts. Testing regularly remains the tenant’s responsibility.
Communities Minister Stephen Williams said:
We’re determined to create a bigger, better and safer private rented sector – a key part of that is to ensure the safety of tenants with fire prevention and carbon monoxide warning.
People are at least 4 times more likely to die in a fire in the home if there’s no working smoke alarm.
That’s why we are proposing changes to the law that would require landlords to install working smoke alarms in their properties so tenants can give their families and those they care about a better chance of escaping a fire.
Ensuring the safety of tenants
Other measures to support the private rented sector include investing £1 billion in building newly-built homes specifically for private rent, giving tenants support against rogue landlords and publishing a How to rent guide so tenants and landlords alike are aware of their rights and responsibilities.
The proposed changes to the law would require landlords to install smoke alarms on every floor of their property, and test them at the start of every tenancy.
Landlords would also need to install carbon monoxide alarms in high risk rooms – such as those where a solid fuel heating system is installed.
Those who fail to install smoke and carbon monoxide alarms would face sanctions and could face up to a £5,000 civil penalty.
This would bring private rented properties into line with existing building regulations that already require newly-built homes to have hard-wired smoke alarms installed.
And it’s in line with other measures the government has taken to improve standards in the private rented sector, without wrapping the industry up in red tape.
The Government have now lifted the cap on the maximum fine limit of £5000 in Magistrates’ Courts to become unlimited, meaning that the Magistrates’ Courts will be able to impose higher fines in relation to fire safety breaches than previously.
The majority of offences committed under the Fire Safety Order are “either way offences” which can be dealt with in either the Magistrates or the Crown Court. Article 32(3)(a) states that a person guilty of fire safety offences is liable on summary conviction (in the Magistrates’ Court) to a fine not exceeding the statutory minimum which was previously £5,000 per charge or offence.
If the Magistrates deemed that their sentencing powers were not sufficient from a financial penalty point of view, then they would previously have had to commit the Defendant to the Crown Court for sentence where the sentencing powers are an unlimited fine or imprisonment for a term not exceeding 2 years or both.
On the 4th March 2015 the Government indicated that Section 85 of the Legal Aid Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 should be commenced to lift the cap on the £5,000 statutory limit.
The new sentencing powers apply only to offences committed after the 12th March 2015.
This is an important increase in the Magistrates’ sentencing powers and will affect a substantial range of health and safety and fire legislation. In particular, companies and their Directors may have to reconsider their approach to fire safety offences, which may previously have been considered as relatively minor, because of the limited fines involved.
It is likely that this will lead to more fire safety cases being dealt with in the Magistrates’ Court where the Magistrates have deemed that the sentence should be a financial penalty. This means that the Magistrates’ Court will now be able to deal with all company defendants as a company can clearly not be sent to prison. Directors and Shareholders prosecuted as individuals would still have to be sent to the Crown Court if a custodial sentence was being considered.
The existing case law upon fire safety sentencing should remain as guidance as it states that company profits and turnover should be considered by the Courts before financial sentences are passed.
The Court will still have a duty to consider what Individual Defendants on limited means can afford to pay off within a period of say 12 months, taking into account their particular incomings and outgoings.
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