Healthy homes

It’s rare that there’s a clear and simple remedy for the problems we deal with on the front line at Shelter so when we find one we grasp it with both hands. Take carbon monoxide and smoke alarms -it’s a no brainer that they should be installed in every home. We see people being made sick, hospitalised or even dying as a result of monoxide poisoning, especially private renters. According to the Gas Safety Trust, renters are at least four times more at risk than those living in other tenures. Only half of renters report having a working smoke alarm fitted. The time to sort this out is long overdue.

That’s why we’re delighted that the government has announced that they will make it compulsory for private sector landlords to install carbon monoxide alarms and smoke alarms in rental properties, with funding for fire authorities to hand out alarms to people. Shelter and British Gas have been jointly calling for action on this issue including in Safe and Decent Homes, our flagship report on conditions in the private rented sector.

A couple of notes of caution. I do wonder if it would be more straightforward all round to introduce a blanket requirement rather than limiting the requirement for carbon monoxide alarms to ‘high risk rooms’. And as with any new regulation it’s only meaningful if it’s enforceable. But with an end to revenge evictions in sight, it should soon get easier for tenants to speak up and get landlords to fix faulty boilers and other dangerous glitches before it’s too late.

  1. Does Shelter carry out any field research?

    Smoke alarms have been compulsory for many years. The risk of death by carbon monoxide alarm is minimal (check the HSE web site). If there such a serious risk of death, should n’t Shelter and EHO be promoting these things to all homes in the UK?

    Landlord already carry out annual gas safety check.

    We always put smoke alarms. However, the 95% of tenants tampered with smoke alarms in one way or another. For instance, they borrow the battery, not replacement when it starts to chirp.

    We even installed electric smoke alarm, so tenant did not need to change batteries and these ended up missing. It cost us £100 for the new wiring for the smoke alarm and £39 for the electric alarm itself. Now we revert back to battery operated ones with long life. If they go missing, they cost £10 to replace.

    You would be surprised, the number of tenant who put smoke alarms in the bin. These things contain radioactive material which end up in landfill.

    A Carbon Monoxide alarm costs £30 each. All it does is push up the costs of rents.

    it is better if Landlord just spent the money on cancer research tests and that money would save more lives.

    1. I’ve lived in my rented house for over 20. In that time my landlord failed to have any gas safety inspections provided. This past August I had my solicitor force the issue. On 21 December 2015 an inspection was performed, and an Immediate Danger tag issued. I asked the HSE to investigate, but the HSE stated it is forward not backward looking. Although the failure to provide the inspection is a criminal offence, landlords have little fear of prosecution.

      As to the risk being minimal: research commissioned from University College London published in a press release dated 02.10.06 by HSE highlights the danger of CO poisoning. The early findings of the research include:
      23% of homes had one or more defective gas appliance;
      8% of homes were judged to be at risk of dangerous levels of CO.

      That translates to somewhere between 3-4 million people in the UK at risk. There are typically 40 or more deaths per year from CO poisoning. Unlike cancer, we know the cure for this problem.

  2. My daughter died from carbon monoxide poisoning and so we are raising awareness of the danger. Unlike a fire, carbon monoxide is a silent killer. In our small village there were two serious cases of carbon monoxide emission within two months – fortunately, both had alarms. We have also had people tell us of numerous cases where their alarm has gone off but the CO has come from a tenanted adjoining flat.

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