Carbon monoxide is a highly poisonous substance produced by the incomplete burning of carbon-based products. This often happens when an appliance has been incorrectly fitted, badly repaired or poorly maintained. It can also occur if flues, chimneys and vents which are blocked.
Many people do not realise that gas is not the only producer of carbon monoxide in the home. Care also needs to be taken if f there is a wood burning stove, open fireplace or oil boiler in the property.
From 1st October 2015, landlords must provide all residential tenants, including those where only part of the property is residential such as a flat over a shop, with a battery-operated smoke alarm on every floor of their property used for living accommodation. Landlords must also provide a carbon monoxide alarm in any room with a solid fuel heating appliance, like a wood-burning stove or coal fire. This includes any open fireplace that’s not sealed off and is available to use. If a chimney is in use then it should be swept at least once a year. It is good practice to have a system in place for periodic checking of alarms and detectors, if the property has gas this is normally done when the service is carried out every year. If there is no gas in the property then the agent/landlord should check these when they carry out an inspection of the property. Therefore it is imperative that an agent/landlord does carry out their property inspections at least once a year. Any good agent/landlord would inspect in the first 3 months of any new tenancy and as long as this is satisfactory every 6 months thereafter.
Carbon monoxide is known as the Silent Killer, because you can’t see it, taste it or smell it and it can kill quickly with no warning. Every year CO poisoning affects over 4,000 people in the UK.
The symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning, headaches, dizziness, nausea, breathlessness, collapse and loss of consciousness, are similar to the flu, food poisoning or a hangover. If symptoms only occur when at home, or if other people in the home experience the same symptoms at the same time, this could be an indication of carbon monoxide poisoning.
Warning signs in the home can be:
• lazy, yellow or orange flames – flames should be crisp and blue (note that some decorative-effect gas fires may burn with a yellow flame)
• dark staining on or around appliances
• pilot lights that frequently blow out
• increased condensation inside windows
Annual Checks – The Legal Duty of a Landlord
Landlords have a legal duty to maintain gas appliances that are provided and ensure a gas safety check is carried out every 12 months by a qualified Gas Safe registered engineer, it is illegal to allow these to expire and can result in a prison sentence, a substantial fine for the landlord and agent if not carried out. A copy of the Landlord Gas Safety Record must also be provided to the tenant(s) when completed and also when they sign the initial tenancy agreement and each agreement thereafter.
Annual maintenance not only helps keep heating and hot water working properly, it helps keep your tenants safe. A landlord must arrange for a test and check to be carried out on any alarms/detectors in the property and record the findings on the gas certificate.
Another important fact to take into account is that smoke alarms and carbon monoxide alarms have an expiry date, this can range from 5 years to 10 years depending on the type so not only do you have to make sure you have the correct detectors you need to ensure they are in date.
If you have an oil boiler it is recommended that you use an approved Oil Firing Technical Association (OFTEC) engineer. There is no legal requirement in the United Kingdom or the Republic of Ireland for a landlord to obtain a landlord safety certificate for oil fired equipment installed within a let property but it is certainly good practise to do so.
It goes without saying that you should also be installing and maintaining such systems in the home that you reside in.