Laws on carbon monoxide alarms to change, bringing greater protection for the public 

Today, 23 November 2021, Housing Minister Eddie Hughes MP of the newly formed Department for Levelling Up Housing and Communities, announced the outcome of the consultation on domestic smoke and carbon monoxide alarms.  This is a great result for the public, which recognises of the work of the APPCOG and it’s members.

In a significant expansion, the department will bring forward changes to require both smoke and carbon monoxide alarms to be fitted in many more homes in England than is currently the case, which will protect people and save lives. This is excellent news and comes at a highly topical time on the second day of Carbon Monoxide Awareness Week! The APPCOG was specifically mentioned by the government in its praise of the report ‘Tenants Safe and Secure in Their Homes’ in the initial consultation documents. We look forward to continuing to support the department as these changes become law.

What are the main changes for carbon monoxide alarms? 

  • The regulations for both privately and socially rented homes will be expanded and extended. A carbon monoxide alarm will be required in all rooms where there is a fixed combustion appliance, excluding gas cookers. This will amend Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarm (England) Regulations 2015. Previously in England, only privately rented homes with solid fuel burning appliances were required to have a carbon monoxide alarm.  

  • There will be an obligation on both private and social sector landlords to repair or replace alarms, once informed that they are faulty. 

  • In all newly built homes a carbon monoxide alarm will be required when a fixed combustion appliance, excluding gas cookers, is installed. This will amend Part J of the Building Regulations. 

  • The guidance on both positioning of alarms and type of carbon monoxide alarm will be reviewed and may be brought in line with BS EN 50292 and BS EN 50291.  

The government intends to progress these changes in a unified shift as soon as parliamentary time allows. 

APPCOG parliamentary officers responded to the announcement: 

Alex Cunningham, MP for Stockton North 

“As someone who worked in the gas industry and knew families who lost loved ones as a result of gas faults, I’ve seen first-hand the terrible impact of carbon monoxide poisoning.  

“That’s why I wholeheartedly welcome these recommendations to expand the regulations on carbon monoxide detectors and smoke alarms to social landlords and new builds.

“These recommendations are not before time. Around sixty people a year in England and Wales die of carbon monoxide poisoning and these expanded regulations will go some way to saving lives.” 

John McNally, MP for Falkirk 

“UK government appears to be making a step in the right direction, a progression to be welcomed, but "asap" needs a firmer target time.” 

In Scotland, the regulations for smoke and carbon monoxide alarms have recently been improved, landlords and homeowners have until February 2022 to update their properties.  

The exclusion of gas cookers was referenced in the announcement: 

The government does not intend to include gas cookers within the scope of regulations. We acknowledge the concerns around the exclusion of gas cookers from scope and agree that any combustion appliance can potentially be the cause of an incidence of CO poisoning. We also acknowledge that, for a variety of reasons, data on CO poisonings is difficult to collect accurately and as such CO exposures are likely to be under-reported. Nonetheless, any new regulation must be proportionate and grounded in the available evidence. 

As outlined in the consultation document, consideration was given to including gas cookers in scope. The evidence available shows that gas cookers are responsible for fewer incidents of CO poisoning than gas boilers. This may be because domestic gas cookers do not tend to be used continuously for long periods, unlike boilers which might be. 

In smaller homes, it is possible that a gas cooker would be situated in the same room as the boiler. Our proposals will create an alarm requirement in the room where the boiler is situated, and to some extent will mitigate the risk from gas cookers. We will also strengthen protections by updating guidance on the positioning of alarms and creating a new obligation to repair faulty alarms. Overall, we consider our package of proposals goes far enough in mitigating the devastating harms caused by carbon monoxide. 

Domestic smoke and carbon monoxide alarms: proposals to extend regulations – government response - GOV.UK (