Publication - Factsheet

Fire and smoke alarms: changes to the law

Published: 21 Oct 2020
Last updated: 10 Sep 2021 - see all updates

The law on fire alarms is changing from February 2022 which means all Scottish homes will need to have interlinked alarms. Guidance for homeowners on what you need to know.

Published:
21 Oct 2020
Fire and smoke alarms: changes to the law

New fire and smoke alarm standard applies from February 2022

Every home in Scotland must have interlinked fire alarms by February 2022.

Interlinked means if one goes off, they all go off, so you will always hear an alarm wherever you are in your home.

The new law has come about because of the Grenfell fire in London in 2017, and it applies to all Scottish homes.

It is the property owner’s responsibility for meeting the new standard.

What each home needs

By February 2022 every home must have:

  • one smoke alarm in the living room or the room you use most
  • one smoke alarm in every hallway or landing
  • one heat alarm in the kitchen

All smoke and heat alarms should be mounted on the ceiling and be interlinked.

If you have a carbon-fuelled appliance – like a  boiler, fire, heater or flue – in any room, you must also have a carbon monoxide detector in that room, but this does not need to be linked to the fire alarms.

Help with costs

Older and disabled homeowners on low incomes can get help with costs (see below).

If you are a private tenant, your landlord is responsible.

If you are a council or housing association tenant, work is ongoing to make sure your home meets the new standards.

Video about the new fire alarm standards

Two types of alarms

You can use either sealed battery alarms or mains-wired alarms.

Both types of alarm are interlinked by radio frequency and do not need WiFi.

What the alarms must have

If you use battery alarms, they must be sealed tamper-proof units and have long-life lithium batteries, which can be up to 10 years. You may be able to fit these types of alarms yourself and they do not need an electrician.

Mains-wired alarms are cheaper but if you use them, they must be fitted by a qualified electrician and must be replaced every 10 years. You may also need to redecorate after fitting them.

If you also need a carbon monoxide alarm and it is battery-operated, it must have a sealed battery for the duration of its lifespan.

Where and what to buy

There is no list of approved suppliers or fitters. You can buy both types of alarms online or in store from a number of retailers, and any qualified electrician can fit the mains-wired type.

You need to check that each alarm complies with the following standards:

  • smoke alarms                       BS EN14604:2005
  • heat alarms                           BS 5446-2:2003
  • carbon monoxide detector British Kitemark EN 50291-1

More information on the standard, including the types of alarms, is in the Tolerable Standard Guidance Chapters 16 and 17.

Please note that the Nest Protect System will not meet the standard. This is because they do not meet the requirements for a heat alarm under the relevant British Standard. British Standard (BS 5839-6:2019) states that only heat alarms should be installed in kitchens.

Frequently asked questions

The more detailed information below may help to answer some other common questions about the new standard.

Cost of alarms and financial help

Homeowners and landlords

Any costs will be the responsibility of home owners and landlords, and will depend on what you currently have in place and the alarms you choose to install. We estimate that the cost for an average three bedroom house which requires three smoke alarms, one heat alarm and one carbon monoxide detector will be around £220. This is based on using the type of alarms that you can install by yourself without the need for an electrician.

The Scottish Government has, over the period 2018-20, provided the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS) with £1m funding to install these alarms in the homes of people assessed to be at high risk from fire as part of a home fire safety visit.

As a general principle, home owners must pay for any ongoing work needed on their own property. As with other housing standards, the homeowner must meet the new fire and carbon monoxide alarm standard. Local authorities have broad discretionary powers to provide advice and help to home owners with work needed to look after their homes.

Help with the costs for pensioners and disabled people

Older and disabled homeowners on low incomes can also contact their local Care and Repair service which gives independent advice and help.

Tenants of local authority or housing associations

Social landlords (local authority and housing association landlords) are aware of the new standard and have been working to ensure that the new alarms are in place, where needed. The Scottish Government has made over £15m of loan funding available for social landlords ensuring that social tenants are safe in their homes. The standard will be monitored by the Scottish Housing Regulator, which may intervene as they deem appropriate for any non-compliance.

Shared ownership (housing association)

For shared ownership properties, as with other condition standards, responsibilities are set out in the occupancy agreement. However, in general, it is your responsibility as the proportion owner, rather than the registered social landlord, to meet the new fire and smoke alarm standard.

Private rented property

The new standards for fire and smoke alarms extend those which currently apply in the Private Rented Sector (PRS) to housing of all tenures, your landlord should already be complying.

The standard is enforced by the right of tenants to apply to the First-tier Tribunal for Scotland (Housing and Property Chamber), so if you believe that your landlord is failing to comply, you can apply to the first-tier tribunal. Penalties for non-compliance would be determined by the tribunal.

Specialist alarms

If specialist alarms are needed – such as for deaf people or Telecare systems – these must be fitted in addition to any smoke, heat and carbon monoxide alarms.

Tenements and blocks of flats

Different homes in a shared property like a tenement or block of flats do not need to be linked to each other, and there is no need for alarms to be fitted in communal areas such as entry halls and stairways.

Asbestos in ceilings and how it affects installation

You may wish to seek specialist advice but it is possible to install interlinked, tamper proof long-life lithium battery alarms to ceilings with asbestos using a firm adhesive and as such would not require any disturbance to the ceiling.

In any case where it is not possible to mount a ceiling alarm due to asbestos concerns, battery-operated alarms that meet the manufacture’s requirement and can be wall mounted may be used.

Replaceable batteries

Rechargeable batteries cannot be used because the sensors in the alarm degrade over time and so will not be able to detect heat or smoke. This is why the alarm has a limited lifetime.  There have been several tragedies over the years where alarms failed because their batteries expired or people have removed them. Any alarm you buy will have information on how long it lasts, which can be up to 10 years. 

Sealed, tamper-proof battery units must be used because they are safer than those which allow the user to change the batteries.

Disposing of your old alarms

Some but not all types of alarms can be recycled at recycling centres. Look on the alarm for information, or check with the manufacturer.

Compliance with the new standard

Compliance checks

Most home owners want to make their homes as safe as possible and compliance will in time form part of any Home Report when they come to sell their home.

As this will be a minimum standard for safe houses, local authorities will be able to use their statutory powers to require owners to carry out work on substandard housing. However, as is the case for other elements of the Tolerable Standard, any intervention must be proportionate, rational and reasonable and where owners are unable to meet the standard, it is not a criminal offence.

Information and advice 

Free Home Fire Safety visits from the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS)

To protect the most vulnerable, the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS) will only fit interlinked alarms into owner-occupied homes where the individual/household is assessed as “high risk” through our Home Fire Safety Visit assessment process.

If the individual / household does not meet these criteria, SFRS staff will provide safety advice, information and details of the revised legislation during the visit. Interim detection can also be supplied if the property has no detectors at present.

To request a Home Fire Safety Visit contact SFRS on 0800 073199 or text “FIRE” to 80800

Household insurance

Different home insurance policies will have different terms and conditions which a homeowner must comply with in order for their home insurance to be valid.  If you are not sure how the new fire and smoke alarm requirements affect your policy, get in touch with your insurer to find out.

Building regulations requirements

New home extensions and building regulation requirements

While building regulations recommend mains operated devices with battery back-up for building work in certain circumstances, tamper proof long-life lithium battery operated devices may be the preferred option for home owners.

The building standards system gives the local authority verifier a degree of flexibility when applying the building regulations to alterations, extensions and conversions. They can consider that a sealed long-life battery operated system that is interlinked via radio frequency can provide an equal or in some cases, higher level of protection than is required through Building Regulations.

A building warrant is sometimes required for the installation of fire and CO alarms

If you are only installing battery operated alarms a building warrant is not required.

If you install a mains-powered system rather than sealed battery alarms, this may require a building warrant to be obtained from your local authority verifier before any work starts.  For example, if your property is a one or two storey house, a building warrant is not required for mains operated alarms but the installation must still comply with the building regulations. More information on the building standards system and how to obtain a building warrant can be found in the Building Standards Customer Journey. If you are in any doubt contact your local authority building standards service.

Marketing material from suppliers

The Scottish Government does not endorse any particular supplier. If a company has used the Scottish Government logo on its marketing material this is misleading and can be reported to Trading Standards on 0808 164 6000.

Contact

Email: newfirealarmstandard@gov.scot

Post:

Scottish Government
Housing and Social Justice Directorate
Victoria Quay
Edinburgh
EH6 6QQ

First published: 21 Oct 2020 Last updated: 10 Sep 2021 -