New fire and smoke alarm regulations to apply to all homes in Scotland

Image by Brandon Leon – Flickr: Day 25: Fire Sprinkler, CC BY-SA 2.0

All homes in Scotland will be required to have a minimum number of smoke alarms under changes being made in the wake of the Grenfell Tower blaze.

Following a consultation on fire and smoke alarms, the existing high standard required in private rented housing will be extended to all homes.

This includes at least one smoke alarm installed in the room most frequently used, at least one smoke alarm in spaces such as hallways and landings and at least one heat alarm in every kitchen. Additional requirements will include specifying a maximum age of ten years for alarms and a carbon monoxide detector will be required in all homes.

Housing minister Kevin Stewart said: “Fires and fatalities from fires are decreasing but even one death is one too many.  Scotland already has rigorous standards for smoke and fire alarms developed over time, with the highest standard currently applied to new-build and private rented housing.

“The tragic events at Grenfell Tower last year emphasised how important building and fire safety is, which is why we brought forward our consultation on this issue. Now everyone will benefit from the same level of protection, whether you own your home, or rent from a social or private landlord.”

The Housing (Scotland) Act 1987 will be amended to reflect the new requirements, which insist on:

  • at least one smoke alarm installed in the room most frequently used for general daytime living purposes,
  • at least one smoke alarm in every circulation space on each storey, such as hallways and landings,
  • at least one heat alarm installed in every kitchen,
  • all alarms should be ceiling mounted, and
  • all alarms should be interlinked.

The following changes to this standard, all supported by the responses to the consultation, are also proposed:

  • to allow specified types of sealed long-life battery alarms as well as mains-wired alarms - reflecting the availability of appropriate technology and will encourage compliance;
  • to specify a maximum age of ten years for alarms; and
  • to require carbon monoxide detectors in all homes.

ACO David McGown, Scottish Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS) director of prevention and protection, said: “The presence of working smoke and heat detectors have been proven to significantly reduce casualties and fatalities occurring as a result of fires within the home.  SFRS therefore welcome and support the next steps from this consultation which will undoubtedly improve home safety for all residents, regardless of tenure.”

If occupants are private tenants, the landlord is required to meet their duty to repair and maintain its properties as set out in the repairing standard under the Housing (Scotland) Act 2006. Private tenants can apply to the First-Tier Tribunal for assistance if landlords fail to carry out work needed to meet the repairing standard. Private landlords are already required to ensure rented homes have fire and smoke alarms to the new standard.

If occupants are social tenants, the landlord is expected to meet their duty to ensure that property meets the Scottish Housing Quality Standard. The Scottish Housing Regulator monitors landlords performance against this standard. Social tenants have a right of complaint against their landlord to the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman. Social landlords are already required to ensure homes have fire and smoke alarms, but not to the new standard.

Following the fire at Grenfell Tower, a Ministerial Working Group on Building and Fire Safety was established to review Scotland’s building and fire safety regulatory frameworks.  As part of this work, the Group agreed that consultation on fire and smoke alarm standards should be prioritised.

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