At our August best practice group, we were joined by Rhian Greaves, Legal Director at DAC Beachcroft, and Steve Pettitt, Director of Health and Building Safety at L&Q. Rhian and Steve were on hand to offer their expert legal and practitioner support to SafetyNet members. Members were encouraged to pose their questions, challenges and experiences for wider discussion.

Our first question kicked off a lively discussion and exposed a real issue for the group and the wider sector.

With the increased demand for CO devices in the social housing sector it is unlikely that all social housing providers will be able to have these devices installed in all properties by 1st October 2022. Does the panel feel that providing the social housing provider can evidence progress towards achieving compliance will that be sufficient to avoid any sanctions by the Regulator?

Just to recap, the amendment, put forward in the Social Housing White Paper, and introduced through the Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarm (Amendment) Regulations 2022 requires that all social housing providers must:
1. Ensure at least one smoke alarm is equipped on each storey of their homes where there is a room used as living accommodation. This has been a legal requirement in the private rented sector since 2015.

2. Ensure a carbon monoxide alarm is equipped in any room used as living accommodation which contains a fixed combustion appliance (excluding gas cookers).

3. Ensure smoke alarms and carbon monoxide alarms are repaired or replaced once informed and found that they are faulty.
While supportive of the amendment, the best practice group were concerned that the lack of lead in time from the announcement to implementation was short-sighted and posed a real issue for the sector.
They felt that the lack of a transition period presents a number of challenges for providers:
• The need for all providers to have installed smoke and CO alarms by the same date has created a bottle neck in the supply chain resulting in long waiting lists for delivery of over 12 weeks.
• Data on which properties already have or require smoke and CO detectors is patchy – there is little time to do a thorough audit
• The short implementation window doesn’t take into account challenges of gaining access in all cases to carry out the installation
• In 10 years time, when the alarms all need to be replaced, we will be in a similar position again….

Members went on to discuss what would happen in the event of non-compliance with the deadline. We discussed the government guidance for landlords and tenants which says
• If landlords are made aware that they are not compliant with the regulations, they should undertake remedial action to install alarms as soon as practicable
• Private registered providers of social housing are expected to self-refer to the Regulator of Social Housing whilst they remain non-compliant on the basis of failing to meet their statutory duties.

There were mixed views about the requirement to self-refer to the RSH and also about what evidence they should provide to the regulator if they did. Generally, the view of the experts and members was that if you know that you know you are not going to be compliant:
• Self-refer to the RSH as per the guidance
• Put remediation measures in place – for example battery operated alarms ahead of hardwired detectors
• Have a well-documented action plan for working towards compliance within a reasonable timeframe (12 months was considered reasonable).