Landlords Warned of the Dangers of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning in Rented Properties

Updated: July 6, 2017

According to National statistics published by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), around 11 people are killed every year in Great Britian as a result of carbon monoxide poisoning.

Carbon Monoxide

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 lessor known evils however, with a little more knowledge and with a few safety measures put in place, landlords can help to save a life.

What is Carbon monoxide (CO)?

The HSE’s website describes carbon monoxide as a colourless, odourless, tasteless, 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.

Are there any signs of carbon monoxide (CO) 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 (CO) 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.

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 fuel 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, fit a carbon monoxide alarm in your properties.  This is similar to a smoke alarm and will alert your tenants to the presence of CO.

What carbon monoxide (CO) 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 Standards’ Kitemark or another European approval organisation’s mark on it. CO alarms usually have a battery life of up to 5 years.

Fit an alarm in each room with a gas appliance. Always follow the alarm manufacturer’s instructions on siting, testing and replacing the alarm.

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

You can buy a carbon monoxide (CO) alarm online starting from around £15.

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 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 it 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 which is 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

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7 Comments

  1. terry sulivan April 4, 2015 at 8:15 am #

    where do i get free monitors?

  2. Claire Rostron January 26, 2014 at 4:18 pm #

    Well done for highlighting this. We put detectors in all
    our properties as well as doing the standard annual gas safe test – I don’t
    know why the detectors aren’t a legal requirement. Very affordable peace of mind.

    • Jonathan Daines January 27, 2014 at 10:57 am #

      Thanks Clare, completely agree, CO detectors should be made compulsory with the gas check as it really is a small price to pay for ones safety. Wish all landlords were as safety conscious as you!

  3. Gowerboy January 25, 2014 at 1:01 pm #

    I have always been amazed that whilst there is a legal requirement for Landlords’ to have a working smoke detector fitted in their property/properties, there has never been (as far as I’m aware) any equivalent legal requirement in respect of CO detectors!

    Smoke detectors are the ‘early warning system’ which immediately highlight to a property’s residents that something is burning, or that there is a blockage somewhere which has not allowed smoke to escape, and as such, immediate action can be taken (OK, so I know that I’m saying the obvious, but please read on).

    CO, as we all (or should) know has no smell, no taste, no colour, and no sound, in fact, without such an item as a detector, no-one knows whether CO is already in one’s property or not, so irrespective of what type of heating (oil, gas, wood, paraffin, charcoal or LPG) is in the property, it should be mandatory to have a CO detector fitted in every relevant room.

    On the http://chemistry.about.com/od/howthingswork/a/codetectors.htm website is stated “Carbon monoxide is present in low levels in the air. In the home, it is formed from incomplete combustion from any flame-fuelled (i.e., not electric) device, including ranges, ovens,
    clothes dryers, furnaces, fireplaces, grills, space heaters, vehicles,
    and water heaters”, although for any landlord’s peace of mind, I would go so far as to state that CO detectors’ should be fitted in each room where any form of heating and/or cooking is located.

    Furthermore (and this is where I get on my bandwagon!) besides smoke and CO detectors, Let properties should also ;-
    a) whenever any form of gas is in the property have a Gas detector, for it is only too easy for someone to forget to light an appliance, and when not discovered immediately could have a detrimental affect on both the building and its occupants,
    and
    b) be fitted with Emergency lights in areas where it would be ‘dangerous’ to walk should there be a power cut, or similar (having emergency lights – which these days are available in decorative finishes – should ensure that tenants’ do not look for matches and candles when the lights go out (and anyway, unattended candles and matches are great fire sources!)

    Returning to CO detectors, whilst the numbers of those killed by the fumes might be ‘low’, any death from CO is one too many, and of course, the numbers who are affected are far higher (and many are unaware that they have been affected and don’t go to their doctors as they think they are suffering from ‘flu’) so everyone should ensure that all Gas (and similar) appliances are serviced at least once a year, chimneys swept ditto – and for everyone’s security, do install CO detectors, and regularly check that they are working!

    • Jonathan Daines January 27, 2014 at 10:55 am #

      Thank you for the insightful comments, you get our support 100%

  4. Jonathan Daines January 24, 2014 at 3:45 pm #

    Thanks for the reminder re the safety instructions, good pointer!

  5. BetterSafethanSorry January 24, 2014 at 3:37 pm #

    I have a couple of rented properties and I install a smoke detector which is connected to the mains and a carbon monoxide tester in the kitchen (where the boiler is located) and one in the lounge where both the fireplaces are. you forgot to mention that as the landlord, it is also important to show the tenant how the detectors work and provide the safety instructions. If you have lost the instructions, most of the time you can download them from google if you can get hold of the make and model.

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