The Dangers of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning in Rented Properties

Gas hob burning showing signs of carbon monoxide

According to the Office for National Statistics, around 60 people are killed every year in Great Britain as a result of carbon monoxide poisoning.

Landlords legal obligations when it comes to Gas Safety regulations are well publicised.  We know that we need to have a Gas Safety Certificate every 12 months by a competent Gas Safe registered engineer.

Unfortunately, carbon monoxide poisoning is one of the lesser-known evils. However, with a little more knowledge and a few safety measures put in place, landlords can help to keep their tenants safe.

Do landlords have to fit carbon monoxide detectors?

Yes is the answer, but legally only in rooms where fuel burning stove or open fire is fitted.

The Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarm (England) Regulations 2015 requires a carbon monoxide alarm in any room used as living accommodation where solid fuel is used – after that, the landlord must make sure the alarms are in working order at the start of each new tenancy. Be sure to read this Q&A booklet for landlords and tenants.

What is carbon monoxide poisoning?

Carbon monoxide is a colourless, odourless, tasteless and poisonous gas produced by incomplete burning of carbon-based fuels – including gas, oil, wood and coal. Carbon-based fuels are safe to use. It is only when the fuel does not burn properly that excess CO is produced, which is poisonous.  When CO enters the body, it prevents the blood from bringing oxygen to cells, tissues, and organs.

How to spot signs of carbon monoxide being present in the home?

There are signs that you can look out for which indicate incomplete combustion is occurring and may result in the production of CO:

  • Yellow or orange rather than blue flames (except fuel effect fires or flueless appliances which display this colour flame)
  • Soot or yellow/brown staining around or on appliances
  • Pilot lights that frequently blow out
  • Increased condensation inside windows

What are the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning?

Early symptoms of carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning can be similar to many common ailments such as food poisoning, viral infections, flu or simple tiredness.

Symptoms to look out for include: headaches or dizziness, breathlessness, nausea, loss of consciousness, tiredness, pains in the chest or stomach, erratic behaviour and visual problems.

Read more on the NHS website.

Steps that landlords can take to keep their tenants safe

Firstly, ensure that you have all your gas appliances regularly maintained and tested every year.  As CO can be produced by fossil fuels i.e. wood and coal, if you have an open fireplace you should ensure that the chimney is regularly swept by a HETAS registered engineer at least once a year.

Secondly, for the cost of around £15-£20, fit a carbon monoxide alarm in your property.  This is similar to a smoke alarm and will alert your tenants to the presence of CO.

Which alarm should I fit?

Gas Safe Register recommends the use of audible carbon monoxide alarms. It should be marked to EN 50291 and also have the British Standard Kitemark or another European approval organisation’s mark. CO alarms usually have a battery life of up to 5 years.

The government How to Let guide states that all landlords must fit a CO alarm in every room with a gas appliance. Always follow the alarm manufacturer’s instructions on positioning, testing and replacing the alarm.

Learn more about landlord’s smoke and carbon monoxide alarm responsibilities here.

Where can I get a carbon monoxide (CO) alarm?

You can buy a carbon monoxide (CO) alarm online starting from under £20.

Ask your Gas Safe registered engineer if you are not sure which alarm to buy or how to fit it – your engineer will be able to advise you.

What should you do if you smell gas?

In a gas emergency, you must act quickly and take the following safety steps:

  • Get fresh air immediately. Open all doors and windows to ventilate the room
  • Switch off the appliance and do not use again until it has been checked by a Gas Safe registered engineer
  • Turn off the gas supply at the mains
  • Call the National Gas Emergency number: 0800 111 999
  • If you are feeling ill, visit your GP or the hospital immediately and tell them that your symptoms may be related to carbon monoxide poisoning

What next?

Need to renew your Gas Safety Certificate? Book your annual Gas Safety Inspection today with one of our trusted Gas Safe engineers.

If you want to make sure you’re fulfilling all your landlord duties, take a look at our free 30-Point Landlord Checklist below.

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