Carbon Monoxide Awareness Week
17-24 November marks Carbon Monoxide Awareness Week, a time to address the potential dangers of carbon monoxide (CO), and how it can affect tenants and landlords alike.
As part of this awareness week, we’re reminding all landlords of the harm CO can cause, and encouraging them to check their appliances in these colder months.
Since October 2015 landlords must have at least one smoke alarm installed on every storey of their properties and a carbon monoxide alarm in any room containing a solid fuel burning appliance (e.g. a coal fire, wood burning stove). After that, the landlord must make sure the alarms are in working order at the start of each new tenancy. Penalties for not doing so include fines of up to £5,000.
According to Elite Fire, carbon monoxide CO is comprised of equal parts oxygen and carbon, and its poisonous qualities have been noted since the days of the ancient Greeks. When carbon-based fuels fail to burn fully, carbon monoxide can often form as part of a by-product of the chemical reaction. When materials such as gas, oil, wood and coal are burned in an environment that becomes starved of oxygen, carbon dioxide builds up, and the fuel cannot burn correctly. This is when carbon monoxide is released.
Carbon monoxide is colourless, tasteless and odourless, making it extremely difficult to detect without the aid of specialised equipment. However, exposure to large quantities of it can be highly dangerous. The gas combines with haemoglobin, and essentially replaces oxygen in the blood, poisoning the person inhaling it. In extreme cases, this can be fatal, but is also responsible for a wide range of other negative effects, such as nausea, dizziness and even comas.
Gas safety requirements
While CO alarms are not legally required where there are oil or gas appliances, it is best practice to provide them. Landlords must also ensure that gas appliances and flues are checked annually by a Gas Safe registered engineer. Oil fired appliances must be checked periodically in line with the manufacturer’s instructions – and ideally at least annually by an OFTEC registered engineer. These checks will measure for carbon monoxide emissions and help ensure appliances are safe.
In April 2018, the Government introduced amendments to gas safety regulations so the checks can be carried out in the two months prior to the due date, while still retaining the original expiration date. This means you don’t have to stress about leaving it to the last minute and struggling to gain access to your property to carry out the check. These checks must be completed within 12 months of the installation of a new appliance or flue. You must also remember to provide a copy of the certificate (the ‘Landlord Gas Safety Record’) to your tenants within 28 days of the check being completed – more on that here.
Landlords should also show their tenants where the emergency gas shut off valve is in case of an emergency. Tenants can contact the gas emergency number on 0800 111 999 if they suspect an appliance is faulty or dangerous.