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Carbon Monoxide detectors – What is the law on replacing expired alarms?

As all those responsible for managing property will be only too aware, landlords have many obligations under the laws and regulations applying to the residential property sector in England and Wales, not least relating to the safety of tenants – specifically CO detectors. 

In England, all landlords must ensure that they comply with the Smoke and Carbon Monoxide (England) Regulations 2015, which came into force on 1 October 2015. Put simply, from that date onwards any landlord in the private residential sector must ensure that there is at least one smoke alarm on each storey of every property and that there is a carbon monoxide detector in any room that contains a solid fuel-burning appliance. Examples of solid fuel-burning appliances are coal fires and wood burners. Although carbon monoxide detectors are only a legal requirement in rooms containing solid fuel appliances, landlords should remember that gas appliances such as gas boilers, gas fires, and gas cookers can also emit carbon monoxide and it is, therefore, good practice to make sure that rooms containing gas appliances also have a working carbon monoxide detector. 

The obligation is an ongoing one: the landlord must ensure that at the start of each and every tenancy both smoke detectors and carbon monoxide alarms are in working order. The start of a new tenancy as defined in the Regulations includes the renewal of an existing tenancy.


If landlords do not comply with their obligations under the Regulations then the local authority for the property can issue a remedial notice. If the defect is not made good, the landlord can be fined up to £5000. Carbon monoxide detectors and smoke alarms save lives. 

The rules in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland are slightly different but it remains best practice wherever your property is to ensure that it’s fitted with sufficient, regulatory standard smoke detectors and carbon monoxide alarms to ensure tenant safety. 

Who is responsible for expired alarms?

Neither smoke alarms nor carbon monoxide detectors have an indefinite life span and so, at some point, they will need to be replaced. Most carbon monoxide alarms expire after 10 years.

Smoke detectors and carbon monoxide alarms that are not wired into the mains will also need their batteries replaced on a periodic basis, and even mains powered alarms will need their back up batteries to be replaced. 

The guidelines issued by HM Government alongside the Regulations state that provided the landlord has ensured that the property has the required working smoke detectors and carbon monoxide alarms on the first day of the tenancy, responsibility for checking the alarms regularly then passes to the tenant. Changing batteries in non-mains powered alarms, therefore, falls to the tenant, although landlords will wish to include checking the alarms on their checklist for each interim property inspection during the tenancy. Checking the alarms as part of interim inspections takes very little time and could save lives. 

If a carbon monoxide detector expires, it is the landlord’s responsibility to replace it. Each manufacturer has different guidelines for replacement and expiry periods so it is vital that these are checked for the detectors installed in each property and that at each check an appropriate diary entry is made so that the detectors are replaced before they expire. 

It is essential that landlords not only install the necessary alarms, but that they record the installation and the statutory checks at the start of each tenancy. Records need to be kept to show compliance in the event that a query arises relating to whether the alarms were installed and working correctly on the first day of the tenancy.

It is here that the InventoryBase property inventory software will provide the detailed record centre for each property that landlords need for peace of mind. It is essential to add the smoke and carbon monoxide detectors to the inventory issued to the tenant at the start of each new tenancy, and to include these on interim inspections. The software allows you to enter reminders for each property, giving landlords and managing agents the peace of mind that they will never miss the replacement date for a carbon monoxide detector.

Written by InventoryBase - Inspection and Property Inventory Software made simple

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