Improving fire safety remains a key priority for the Scottish Government and our intention is that everyone should benefit from the same level of protection, whether you own your home or rent from a social or private landlord.
Ahead of the new standard for fire alarms in all Scottish homes, which will come into force on 1 February 2022, I attach for your information and use answers to frequently asked questions.
Because this is a safety measure, we hope most people will see the benefits of it. However I appreciate that there are some who may have remaining concerns so this is intended to support communications with constituents and other stakeholders.
The standard is the same as that which has been required in new build homes since 2010, and in the private rented sector since 2013.
Following the Grenfell Tower fire, we undertook a consultation on fire and smoke alarms in 2017 which demonstrated very strong support for a common new minimum standard for fire and smoke detectors across all housing.
The regulations introducing the new standard were unanimously supported by the members of the cross party Local Government and Communities Committee of the Scottish Parliament on 19 December 2018. The regulations were set in law on 16 January 2019 and were intended to come into force on 1 February 2021.
However, in light of the impact of Covid-19 during 2020 there were concerns about how the pandemic would impact on home owners’ ability to make changes to their homes in time for this original deadline.
In response to this, a delay of 12 months was sought by Scottish Ministers and agreed at the Local Government and Communities Committee meeting on 16 December 2020 in light of the continuing pandemic restrictions.
We consider that, in principle, all houses could meet the standard by the date it comes into force. But, as with existing standards, it is possible that some owners will be unwilling to carry out work to substandard houses, and that others might need more time, for example, due to illness or because of the cost.
The legislation allows for flexibility, as it says work should be carried out within such period as is reasonable in all the circumstances.
I have made a statement to Parliament on the afternoon of 19th January to set out the changes in further detail.
Cabinet Secretary for Social Justice, Housing and Local Government
Fire and smoke alarms: Frequently asked questions
COMPLIANCE WITH THE NEW STANDARD
The aim of housing standards is to improve houses, not to criminalise home owners. It is right that the new standard for fire alarms should be built into the tolerable standard as improvement to fire safety should be part of the basic requirements on all tenures to improve fire safety.
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.
Local authorities have broad statutory responsibility for tackling substandard housing in their area, and for major defects can require home owners to carry out work, but any intervention will be proportionate and we do not expect them to go beyond advising home owners about fire alarms.
We are aware that, following our successful public awareness campaign, there is significant public interest in carrying out work to comply with the new standard for fire alarms in all Scottish homes and we recognise this may have led to some supply issues.
The legislation provides flexibility for people to fit the necessary alarms in due course if they are unable to do so by the February 2022 deadline.
Local authorities will be taking a proportionate and measured approach to compliance taking individual circumstances into account as well as reflecting the evolving situation with the Covid 19 pandemic.
The legislation does not put the duty directly on an owner-occupier, so they are not breaking the law if they don’t comply.
No one will be criminalised if they need more time and there are no penalties for non-compliance. However, we would encourage everyone to install these alarms, which can help save lives.
A statutory minimum standard for fire alarms through the tolerable standard defines what is expected for all homes.
COST OF ALARMS AND FINANCIAL HELP
The price of fire alarms varies between manufacturers and suppliers. Officials are regularly checking prices advertised by UK suppliers, and interlinked alarms for a typical three bedroom house, together with a CO detector, are available for around
£220 This is the cost for battery alarms that the home owner can install themselves. Costs will be higher if a tradesperson is employed to install the alarms.
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
We recognise that some owners will have more difficulty, particularly with the option to fit alarms themselves, and we have provided £½ million additional funding for Care and Repair Scotland to provide help installing alarms for older and disabled home owners.
Older and disabled homeowners on low incomes can also contact their local Care and Repair service which gives independent advice and help.
Help from the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service
Free Home Fire Safety visits are provided by the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS). To request a Home Fire Safety Visit contact SFRS on 0800 0731999 or text “FIRE” to 80800. 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 or 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.
It will be for individual insurance providers to decide whether they include the new requirements in their policies.
Anyone who is unclear about the terms and conditions of their specific policy in relation to the fire and smoke alarm requirements should get in touch with their home insurer in the first instance.
The Association of British Insurers have advised that ABI member firms are aware of the upcoming changes to fire alarms legislation from 2022.
ABI has indicated, and has set out on its website, that insurers may ask a customer questions about whether the property is fitted with working fire alarms, but are not likely to ask questions about specific standards. They advise policyholders to contact their insurance providers directly if they are uncertain about the term and conditions of their policy.
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. Interlinked smoke and heat alarms are required to be installed in addition to any Telecare smoke/heat alarms to help keep you safe. If you have fitted or are planning to fit interlinked smoke and heat alarms, please do not remove your telecare smoke, heat or 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.
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.
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
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.
Reputable suppliers and trades people
We know that some people are concerned about scams. Our advice is that the best way to avoid scams is to use trusted sources of information, don’t deal with cold callers and be wary of any company that says their products or services have been endorsed by the Scottish Government. We have included messages on the importance of using reputable tradespeople including signposting to local government Trading Standards in our awareness campaign for the new standard.
We know the Scottish Government’s fire alarms awareness raising campaign lead to high levels of awareness of the new standard, and there is significant public interest in complying with the new standard for fire alarms.
The marketing campaign ran from 19 August to 26 September 2021, across media channels including TV, radio and digital advertising, supported by partnerships to extend the reach of the campaign, reaching nearly 4.4 million people (over 95% of adults).
Supporting print materials, posters and 96,000 information leaflets were distributed to all libraries in Scotland.
The Scottish Government commissioned independent evaluation of the campaign, which found that it had exceeded its targets for increased awareness, understanding and commitment to take action.
Independent follow-up analysis in December 2021 showed that 88% of the homeowners surveyed were aware of the new legislation
We are now developing a further awareness raising campaign to remind people about the new standard once it is in place and continue to encourage people to improve their fires safety.
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.