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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Firefighters had to rescue three people from a smoke-logged three-storey building owned by Haresh Rambhai Patel when a fire broke out.

Other tenants had to clamber out of the back of the building, comprising two properties, in Evington Street, Highfields, Leicester.

A court heard the building contained a total of 11 bedsits, but had no emergency lighting or working smoke alarms.

Emergency exits were blocked, fire doors were missing, left open or jammed and a fire extinguisher in the hall had not been inspected for 25 years.

Patel (57), who has 16 other rental properties in a £2.5 million property portfolio, pleaded guilty to seven offences under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005, at Leicester Crown Court.

He will be sentenced next month.

Naomi Gilchrist, prosecuting for Leicestershire Fire and Rescue Service, said: “There was an abject failure on the part of the defendant to address the question of fire safety.

“There was no risk assessment, no evacuation strategy and the alarm system wasn’t working.

“He carried out no checks. He did not have licences to run multiple-occupation houses and because he had no licences he wasn’t on the fire safety register and received no official fire safety visits.”

The court was told Patel, formerly of Southernhay Road, Stoneygate, Leicester, was fined £38,000 by magistrates earlier this year following a separate city council prosecution, for failing to have the necessary licences to run his business.

Miss Gilchrist said at 3.40am on May 8 last year nine tenants were in the building when a fire – possibly caused by an electrical fault – broke out in the kitchen of an unoccupied ground-floor bedsit.

She said: “Firefighters saw fire and smoke coming from the first and second floor.”

One trapped occupant was rescued from the first floor.

Miss Gilchrist said: “The entrance lobby was heavily smoke-logged, with almost nil visibility, so breathing apparatus and thermal imaging equipment were used.

“A divan bed was against a wall blocking an exit.

“Communal doors were open or missing, allowing smoke to quickly spread to other floors.

“A couple had to be rescued from the ground floor, with a woman in bare feet having to be carried to avoid broken glass.

“Other occupants, unable to get out of the front, climbed out of the rear.

“No alarm sounded as the system wasn’t working.

“There were a number of obstructions, furniture and combustible items, in the corridors and exit routes.

“The basement stored car parts and tyres and had the fire spread there would have been significant danger from toxic fumes.

“There were holes in walls which would allow fire to spread and the walls between compartments were not up to the 60-minute standard.

“There was a complete failure of every aspect of fire safety, putting people at risk of serious injury or death.”

An enforcement notice forced Patel to shut down the property and tenants were relocated.

The court heard in interview Patel admitted failing to take any fire safety steps, but sought to blame the local authority for not having told him.

He blamed tenants for leaving clutter and breaking alarms.

Judge Robert Brown asked to see the defendant’s business accounts, but was told only 2010-11 figures were available – and that Patel had not filed his accounts with the Inland Revenue since then.

Alison Downs, mitigating, said the Evington Street bedsits were still unoccupied but the required work and checks were due for completion soon.

She said: “He’s spent £36,000 refurbishing his properties.

“He now carries out fire risk assessments weekly. He knows he has the lives of people to consider and he can’t take risks.”

Sentencing was adjourned and Patel was released on bail.

The charges he admits relate to failing to take general fire precautions to ensure the safety of the premises, which caused a risk of death or serious injury.

He also failed to make a suitable fire risk assessment; failed to make fire safety arrangements; failed to ensure that in the event of danger tenants were able to evacuate quickly and safely; failed to establish appropriate procedures for serious and imminent danger; failed to ensure the premises had safety equipment that was suitably maintained; and failed to ensure anyone was appointed to assist in undertaking preventative and protective measures.

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