Carbon monoxide legal duties: Agents warned that pressing ‘test’ is not enough

Agents are warned that they may not be compliant if they simply press the “test button” on carbon monoxide alarms.

The law, which came in on October 1, requires the testing of smoke and carbon monoxide alarms at the start of each new tenancy.

But an expert has warned that simply pressing the test button on a carbon monoxide alarm is not sufficient to ensure that the alarm is working.

The test button simply tests the circuit, but does not check whether the sensor is working.

The new Regulations, however, specifically require landlords to ensure that there are “working carbon monoxide alarms”.

Agents carrying out this duty, including those who delegate it to maintenance staff or inventory clerks, could leave landlords exposed if they do not specifically check that the alarms actually work.

John Stones, managing director of Gas Safe Europe, said: “Simply pressing the so-called test button only tests the battery, buzzer and circuit, yet the sensor is the component most likely to fail.”

He said testing can only be done by injecting test gas, for example Detectagas, over the alarm.

Agents should also be aware that sensors inside carbon monoxide alarms have very limited life spans.

From October 1, private landlords have been legally required to install smoke alarms on every floor, and carbon monoxide alarms in rooms where there are solid fuel appliances. This requirement applies to properties with both new and existing tenancies.

The new law applies only in England. But does it go far enough?

For example, why aren’t carbon monoxide alarms required where there are gas boilers? The new Regulations require only that they are fitted into a room used as living accommodation and which contains a solid fuel burning combustion appliance.

In Northern Ireland, the legal requirement to have carbon monoxide alarms fitted is much wider than in England, under Building Regulations in force since 2012, but arguably still not wide enough.

If you listened to Radio 4’s You and Yours programme yesterday, you will have heard an impassioned plea from a mother for the law to encompass all homes, both old and new and whether rental or owner-occupied.

Stacey Rodgers lost her only child, ten-year old Dominic, in February 2004.

He died because a neighour’s faulty boiler leaked lethal carbon monoxide through the brickwork and into his bedroom. He would probably have died within five minutes.

Stacey has since been come a passionate campaigner to raise awareness of the dangers of carbon monoxide poisoning.

As she said on the programme yesterday: “Your own property might be okay, but what about the home next door?”

Incidentally, while Northern Ireland is ahead of England, and Scotland is due to have its own legislation on alarms in December, in Wales, alarms are recommended but not mandatory.

It seems that it often takes a tragedy before there is action.

In Northern Ireland, carbon monoxide alarms became mandatory in all new homes, whether rented or owner-occupied, and also whenever a boiler or solid fuel stove is upgraded, after the deaths of two teenagers.

Yesterday’s programme also looked into the likely widespread ignorance of landlords in England to install smoke and carbon monoxide alarms.

Housing analyst Kate Faulkner said that landlords who did not belong to an accreditation or membership body, or who did not use an ARLA, NALS or RICS agent, were all likely to be in the dark.

Stacey’s story is here


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  1. MF

    That big red “TEST” button is rather misleading then.  (Isn’t there a law against that?)

    Seems to me there’s a huge gap in the market now for smoke and CO alarm testing companies.

  2. Will

    Perhaps Government who make these laws should now give a definition of the meaning the word “Test” within its legislation. A button marked Test would imply a test has been carried out according to the manufactures wording.  Mr Stones raises a valid concern, but the question this raises in my mind is was Gas Safe consulted during the drafting of these regulations as that was the point it should have been raised and addressed; or did those drafting the regulations not investigate and consult properly? Is this just another commercial organization trying to make further capital out of landlords?  I think the gravy train is now devoid of gravy!!!!

    1. Romain

      Ah but the legislation does not mention the word ‘test’. It states that landlords (or their agents) must “ensure that each prescribed alarm is in proper working order“.

      This of course does not clarify things much. However, can the law be more specific than the above? There might be many sorts of alarms and many different test procedures. At one point it must be down to users to take the appropriate steps based on the manufacturer’s instructions or the input of a professional.

      1. ray comer

        I took that to mean that the unit should be capable of doing the job its intended for ie detecting smoke or co emissions so I checked with the various TS offices that cover our office base to see what they thought would be ‘an appropriate test’ ; every one said ‘we just push the test button!”

        Testing kits are available from a lot of sources and don’t cost the earth


  3. GlennAckroyd

    Mains wired smoke alarms have long since been required for new homes. But the government has never ventured into forcing standards within private homes, and Building regs are never retrospective.

    Private homes don’t even need to have gas safe checks.

    The government don’t do it because it’s not a vote winner. ‘Nanny state’ and ‘interference’ etc, whereas it’s easy to bash landlords because everybody hates them as filthy rich…

    But where would you stop?

    – Gas check

    – Electric Safety

    – Smoke, Heat, Carbon Monoxide alarms

    – Asbestos

    – Fire Furniture Hazards

    – Legionella

    – Safety glass

    1. Trevor Mealham

      @ Glen – safety glass. They sell a good kit in B&Q called a hammer. Trouble is even when it shatters and stays on the film, the blessed window needs replacing 😕

  4. Gump

    “yet the sensor is the component most likely to fail”

    “sensors inside carbon monoxide alarms have very limited life spans.”

    Perhaps, and I know you’re gonna laugh at this one, you could make better sensors, heck you could even put a big “Best Before” sticker on them

    1. Will

      Gump, I think you will find most new alarms do have a Life date on them often  between 5-10 years from manufacture.

  5. Gump

    Note to Self: Brush up on lettings 😛

  6. Helen B

    The Honeywell XC70 carbon monoxide alarms which our agency are installing are tamper proof and come with a 7 year life and warranty for the cost of approx. £22 + VAT each. There is an upgrade Honeywell XC100 which has a 10 year life and warranty.

    It is not clear whether the 7 year life is from manufacture or installation, or how could we know the date it was manufactured. It would make sense for the manufacturer to clear this up by adding an expiry date to each alarm.

    In the absence of an expiry date from the manufacturer, how lettings agents can check any further than the sound test button in accordance with the manufacturers user manuals….?!

    If the alarm or test button is faulty and the alarm is under warranty then surely that is down to the manufacturer. If the manufacturer doesn’t provide an expiry date for the battery life then I don’t consider it to be possible for the letting agent to know the end of life date.

    1. Woodentop

      Are they made by VW?

    2. Romain

      I have a sealed Honeywell CO alarm, though a different model (H450EN), and a few Ei smoke alarms. On all of them it is clearly printed “Replace by <month> <year>”.

      Based on that date, it seems that the advertised life is from manufacture.

  7. jad

    What Next ??  Haven’t the Politicians made enough mileage out of Landlords ?  Gas escaping from next door thro’ the brickwork ??  A very sad story but how can one ever prevent such a case, maybe it’s time to establish the ‘Landlord Police’ so that Politicians can interfere with them and influence investigations when their mates are involved ????  They certainly appear very good at that……….

  8. Will

    So you test it and record the fact you did. It was “working gov” when the tenant took over and look here I recorded it as such!  Now its the tenants fault for not maintaining it!  How is this law going to be enforced effectively?  I guess this is probably an attempt by Gas Safe to drum up more business for their members and themselves.

  9. MF

    I should have thought that if government required anything more than a press of the TEST button that they would have made this clear in the regulations.

  10. Bob Leydon

    Sorry I should have referred to the initial post by @Rosalind Renshaw who refers to @John Stones

    “John Stones, managing director of Gas Safe Europe, said: “Simply pressing the so-called test button only tests the battery, buzzer and circuit, yet the sensor is the component most likely to fail.”

    He said testing can only be done by injecting test gas, for example Detectagas, over the alarm.


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