Safe in the knowledge

Regulations for smoke and carbon monoxide alarms are set to change to ensure greater protection for homes in England. in this article, Aico’s Andy Speake explains what the legislation means for specifiers – and how to comply.

In November 2021, the Government published the results of a consultation proposing an extension to regulations for smoke and carbon monoxide (CO) alarms, applicable to all rented properties in England, and also bringing changes to the regulations for new build properties.

The consultation proposed to amend the Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarm (England) Regulations 2015 and Approved Document J, with the aim of extending the existing private rented legislation to socially rented properties; it also considered the important question of whether the existing legislation was sufficient.

In addition, the legislation looked to remove the word ‘solid’ from the requirements for CO alarm installation. The change would also be included in the building regulations (Approved Document J). These regulatory updates are the first part of several reforms outlined in the social housing white paper.


CO poses a risk in any home where there is a fuel burning appliance; it is a poisonous gas that is odourless, colourless and tasteless, which can cause significant health problems and can even be fatal. The best way to stay protected is through installing a CO alarm, and the importance of this has been recognised through the updated Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarm (England) Regulations 2015.

There are several amendments to the requirements for CO alarms to bring greater protection to residents. The first requires all private and social landlords to install a CO alarm in any room of a property that contains a fuel burning appliance, such as gas boilers, fuel burning stoves, oil burners, biofuels, coal boilers/stoves, wood pellets etc. Cookers are excluded from this requirement.

However, although cookers are excluded from this legislation, the use of CO alarms in rooms with fuel burning cookers is still recommended within the British Standard, BS EN 50292, but there is no associated legal obligation.

The extended requirements also state that all new build and materially altered properties in England have a CO alarm installed wherever a fuel burning appliance is present (excluding cookers), as per the Building Regulations’ Approved Document J.

Any CO alarm installed must comply with BS EN 50291-1; this standard shows that the alarms have been extensively tested to ensure their quality including sensor reaction times, minimum alarm sound levels and temperature resistance.

Landlords are able to use either battery or mains-powered alarms within their properties in order to meet the requirements stated in the updated legislation; there is however no requirement for CO alarms to be interconnected with a property’s existing smoke alarms, although this remains an option if the landlord of the property wishes to do so.


The consultation has resulted in a proposal that seeks to align the requirements for smoke alarms in social housing with those in the private rented sector to improve fire safety for all tenants, regardless of tenure.

Social landlords will now be required to install at least one smoke alarm on each storey of their properties, where there is a room used for living accommodation. However, the majority of social landlords already exceed the proposed requirements by installing smoke alarms within their housing stock as per BS 5839-6:2019+A1:2020. Any smoke alarms installed must comply with BS EN 14604.


By law, all landlords will also be required to repair or replace alarms once notified of a fault. Although regular alarm testing will remain the residents’ responsibility, a landlord must ensure that every alarm in the property is working correctly at the beginning of each new tenancy.


For fire alarm installation, it is recommended to follow the British Standard BS 5839-6:2019+A1:2020. The standard lists three categories of a system to describe the level of protection the systems provide – generally the higher the category of system the higher the level of protection.

For CO alarms, it is recommended to follow BS EN 50292 for installation. The standard states that CO alarms should be installed in any room that has any fuel burning appliances, rooms where people spend the most time – such as a living room; rooms where people sleep, and any room that has a flue running through it. This means that a CO leak can be detected from all the potential sources and heard throughout the property.

There is not yet a confirmed date when this new legislation will come into force in England, but it is expected to be around late 2022. It could, however, be earlier or later, so the most appropriate advice is to install the alarms at the earliest opportunity, as it is expected that there will be no grace period for compliance.

Andy Speake is national technical manager at Aico.