back Posted on 19 September 2023
In Northern Ireland, tenant safety and well-being within rental properties is to take centre stage with the introduction of two significant pieces of legislation. The Private Tenancies Act (NI) 2022 has paved the way for these changes, set to take effect by the end of 2023. These legislations, namely Section 8 and Section 10, bring with them a host of updates designed to ensure a safer and more secure environment for tenants across the region.

Section 8: The Smoke, Heat, and Carbon Monoxide Alarms for Private Tenancies Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2024

Section 8 of the Private Tenancies Act (NI) 2022 introduces The Smoke, Heat, and Carbon Monoxide Alarms for Private Tenancies Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2024. This set of regulations aims to elevate the safety standards within rental properties, focusing primarily on the installation and maintenance of alarms. Let's delve into the specifics:

Scope of Application:
These regulations will apply to any residential property that utilises gas heating, oil heating, bottled gas, open fires, or gas/wood burners. In essence, if your rental property has any of these heating systems or appliances, these regulations will concern you.

Implementation Timeline:
Property owners need to be proactive and ensure compliance within two months from the commencement of Section 8 of the Private Tenancies Act. Failure to adhere to this timeline could result in fines of up to £2,500.

Alarm Requirements:
For properties with a fixed combustion appliance (think gas boilers, open or gas fires, or stoves powered by coal, oil, gas, or wood), specific alarm installations are mandatory:

  • Smoke Alarms: Every living room must have a smoke alarm, with the exception of open-plan kitchens. Furthermore, smoke alarms must be installed in every hall and landing.
  • Heat Alarm: A heat alarm is a requirement in the kitchen.
  • Carbon Monoxide Alarm: This alarm should be installed in the area where the fixed combustion appliance is located. This includes garages if the boiler resides there, and if the garage is integral to or connects with the house.

Alarm Maintenance:
Landlords shoulder the responsibility of ensuring alarms are in proper working order at the start of each new tenancy. During the check-in process, tenants are to confirm the condition of these alarms. In the event of any faults, alarms must be promptly replaced, and this should occur before their manufacturer's expiration date.

Interlinking and Installation:
  • Smoke and heat alarms must be interlinked to ensure a synchronized response in case of emergencies.
  • Alarms can be hardwired, battery-operated (sealed), or a combination of both. This offers flexibility to meet various property configurations.
  • Electricians play a pivotal role in guaranteeing that hardwired smoke alarms comply with building control standards.
  • Importantly, if a boiler is located in a bathroom, it should be clearly marked. Additionally, the carbon monoxide detector should be fitted outside the room, positioned as close to the boiler as possible.

Cost Implications:
The Department of Communities has provided cost estimates for landlords to ensure compliance:
  • For properties equipped with battery-sealed alarms, compliance is expected to cost landlords around £170.00 every 10 years.
  • For properties with hardwired alarms, the cost of compliance is estimated to be approximately £710.00 every 10 years.
  • Property renovations require all alarms to be hardwired to meet the requirements effectively.

Section 10: The Electrical Safety Standards for Private Tenancies Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2024

Now, let's shift our focus to Section 10 of the Private Tenancies Act (NI) 2022, which introduces The Electrical Safety Standards for Private Tenancies Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2024. This set of regulations is primarily geared toward enhancing electrical safety within rental properties. Here's a closer look at the key aspects:

Rationale for Implementation:
These regulations come into play for several significant reasons:
  • Alignment with UK Standards: To harmonise with the minimum electrical safety standards already established in other parts of the UK. This ensures that tenants across the entire UK experience consistent safety measures.
  • Addressing Compliance Gaps: Presently, only 15% of properties in the Private Rented Sector (PRS) have undergone Electrical Installation Condition Reports (EICRs). These regulations aim to bridge this compliance gap and ensure more rigorous electrical safety assessments.
  • Enhancing Fire Safety: In 2022, the Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service (NIFRS) identified 466 fires in rented homes where electrical faults were the primary cause. These regulations seek to mitigate such risks and enhance fire safety measures.

Landlord Responsibilities:
Section 10 places several responsibilities on landlords:
  • Pre-Tenancy Safety: Before a tenancy commences, landlords must ensure that the property meets the required electrical safety standards.
  • Periodic Testing: An Electrical Installation Condition Report (EICR) must be conducted and renewed at least every five years, unless the property experiences frequent turnover, in which case more frequent testing may be necessary.
  • Tenant Notification: Landlords are obligated to provide tenants with a copy of the EICR within 28 days of the inspection or at the start of the tenancy, whichever comes first.

Prompt Remedial Action:
In cases where the EICR reveals the need for remedial work, landlords must ensure that such work is carried out within 28 days from the date of the inspection or as specified in the report if it's less than 28 days.

Penalties for Non-Compliance:
Landlords who fail to comply with these regulations may face fines of up to £5,000. These fines serve as a powerful incentive for landlords to take electrical safety seriously.

Confirmation and Reporting:
Upon the completion of remedial work or further investigation, landlords must obtain written confirmation that the necessary actions have been taken to meet electrical safety standards. This confirmation must then be reported to the tenant within 28 days.

Certificate for Prospective Tenants:
Prospective tenants must receive a certificate demonstrating compliance with these regulations within 28 days of submitting a written request. For landlords, this means that obtaining the necessary certification should be prioritised before advertising the property.

If you find yourself with any questions or would like to delve deeper into these important regulatory changes that impact your role as a landlord or tenant, we encourage you to reach out to us at Pinkertons. We are here to provide clarity, guidance, and support on all matters related to these new legislations. Your safety and compliance are paramount, and we are committed to ensuring your rental experience remains secure and hassle-free. Don't hesitate to contact us at 028 91 479393 or 
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