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Scottish Carbon Monoxide Legislation: The Key Changes

We recently received the following email from East Lothian Council:


Are you aware of the impending changes to the law regarding carbon monoxide (CO) detection in rented properties?

From the 1st of December it becomes mandatory for private Landlords across Scotland to provide a carbon monoxide detector with a sealed long-life battery within ALL rooms containing a fuel burning appliance.

The Scottish Government’s official guidance on the impending legislation leaves no doubt as to where the responsibility lies. It states that landlords: “should be aware of their personal responsibility to ensure any house they rent meets the repairing standard which now includes this new duty in relation to carbon monoxide detection”.

The new rules covering Scotland will clarify what has previously been a mixed bag in terms of legislation relating to carbon monoxide detectors. Scottish building regulations already specify that a CO detector must be installed when a boiler is replaced or fitted, and existing HMO legislation also dictates that CO detection must be provided in any room featuring a gas appliance.

However, the new legislation being brought in as part of the Repairing Standard applies universally to all rented properties, and is distinctive in some important ways.

The first point of note is the specification that the detectors provided must feature a sealed long-life battery designed to operate for the entire lifespan of the unit. Sealed battery units are seen to be more reliable as there is no temptation for the batteries to be re-purposed.

Another distinctive element of the new legislation is the recognition that carbon monoxide can be produced from the combustion of any carbon containing fuel – i.e. gas, coal, wood or oil to name the most common. This stance improves greatly on some pre-existing advice that specified that only homes featuring gas burning appliances were obliged to install CO detection.

The last defining characteristic of the planned legislation is the insistence that a co detector must be sited in each and every room containing a fuel burning appliance – with the sole exception of rooms with a device used purely for cooking.

To summarise the main elements of the planned legislation, come the 1st of December, landlords must ensure:

- A CO detector is sited in every room housing a fuel burning appliance
- All CO detectors supplied feature a sealed long life battery
- All fuel types are covered

Like other elements of the repairing standard, the new legislation will be policed by the Private Rented Housing Panel (PRHP) who will have the power to take action against landlords referred to them by either the tenant or a local authority.

Under the new legislation, provision of the following methods of CO detection will no longer be acceptable in rented accommodation:

- CO detectors with removable batteries
- Colour changing detection dots
- Reliance on a single detector where more than one device is present

The scheduled changes should ensure residents of rented accommodation benefit from best practice levels of protection from the deadly by-product of incomplete combustion – carbon monoxide.

But my HMO already has a CO detector installed?

Whilst current guidance governing the licensing of HMO’s in Scotland already requires that a carbon monoxide alarm must be present in any room containing a gas appliance, the new legislation goes a step further.

Pre-existing HMO specific rules meant landlords may not have been legally obliged to provide a CO detector if only coal or oil was used for fuel within the property. The impending general legislation widens the responsibilities of HMO landlords by referring to all combustion appliances rather than being limited to any single fuel source.

Another significant development is the insistence that CO detectors provided by landlords must be powered by a long-life battery. In the light of these two changes, landlords of HMO’s must take care to ensure they are still compliant in respect of the new general legislation.

Where should CO detectors be installed?

The legislation dictates that a carbon monoxide detector should be located in every room containing a fixed combustion appliance and in any bedrooms or living rooms through which a vent from a combustion appliance passes.

To ensure the safety of your tenants as per the Repairing Standard it may therefore be necessary to install more than one device.

As for the specific location of the alarm within each identified space, attention should always be paid to the instructions supplied with the detector being installed. However, the standard guidance is that ceiling mounted CO detectors should be positioned a minimum of 30cm away from any walls, and wall mounted detectors a minimum of 15cm below the ceiling.

Most CO detectors can either be wall or ceiling mounted, but all must be positioned away from corners, windows and spaces with restricted air-movement, hence the standard installation instructions referenced above.

The ideal distance between a CO detector and an appliance is between 1 and 3 metres in an average sized room as per this graphic.

Blog image courtesy of Discount Fire Supplies