Recent changes in building regulations mean that from the 1st of October 2013, it became a legal requirement to fit a carbon monoxide detector with any new gas heating appliance in a private rental property. Unlike with smoke detectors, for which any smoke alarm fitted since September 2007 has to be mains wired, a battery powered carbon monoxide detector is allowed providing it will alert tenants (usually by beeping annoyingly in the middle of the night) when the battery runs low. There are some conditions about exactly where a carbon monoxide detector should be fitted in a rental property, most notably the detector should be fitted in the same room as the new gas appliance and within 1m to 3m from the appliance and the detector should also be at least 30cm from any wall (assuming it is mounted on the ceiling). These safety regulations have been brought in as part of the very detailed Review of the Building (Scotland) Regulations 2004. However, there is no mention of what this means for all other rental properties that have not had a new gas heating appliance installed in the last few months. As a letting agent, this leaves us to advise the majority of our landlords, who fit the latter category, of best practise and not a strict legal requirement.

The risks of carbon monoxide poisoning are extremely serious. Last week a gas fitter in Northern Ireland was jailed for a poor boiler installation that resulted in the death of two teenagers from carbon monoxide poisoning. Carbon monoxide is a colourless, odourless and tasteless gas that is slightly lighter than air and despite small quantities of it being present in the earth’s atmosphere, it is deadly to animals and humans in higher quantities often referred to as the silent killer due to there being no obvious warning signs to someone in a high risk situation. High levels of carbon monoxide are produced where incomplete combustion of a carbon based fuel occurs usually due to a defective appliance installation or maintenance or in the case of poor supply of combustion air.

Despite carbon monoxide detectors not being explicitly legally required for properties without recent installations of gas heating appliances, there is no doubt about the best practise for landlords. We strongly recommend, for the relative inexpense, all rented properties should have a battery powered carbon monoxide detector fitted close to gas heating appliances. In most cases of the properties we manage, this relates to gas boilers (the risk with cooking appliances is much lower and therefore not covered in the new building regulations) and gas fires. A battery powered CO detector can be supplied and fitted for around £30 and should keep tenants in the property safe from these risks for years to come.

In summary, despite not being a legal requirement we would definitely recommend having a carbon monoxide detector fitted in your rental property next to any gas heating appliances. This is a stance supported by the Scottish Association of Landlords.

If you have any questions or comments about any of this, you can find me on twitter @UmegaNeil.