03 Nov 2019

Government Figures show that of 14,408 mains-powered smoke alarms recorded at the scene of residential fires (including single-lets and HMOs), 21%  (3,048) failed to operate.

As Landlord Licensing & Defence director Phil Turtle pointed out, Mains operated alarms are the main choice of UK Landlords and indeed are usually specified in Fire Risk Assessments and by Council HMO requirements.

“This shocking figure highlights the absolute need to test smoke alarms weekly,” said Turtle. “Even a week is a long time for tenants to be at increased risk because a vital smoke alarm has gone faulty – meaning a fire may not be detected in time to get occupants to safety.”

Most landlords will be of the incorrect opinion that smoke alarms are almost fit-and-forget devices. These statistics shows that exactly the opposite is true: They would appear to be one of the least reliable forms of electronic equipment.

Most landlords know better than to fit battery alarms even in Single-Lets – as they know the batteries will go and not be replaced and tenants often remove the batteries to “stop the beeping’ rather than change the battery or inform the landlord / letting agent.

The Government statistics show how right they are to eschew battery alarms since these has a 38% probability of failure to work in a fire situation! 

The statistics also show that these failure rates are nothing new, with mains-powered alarms varying between 20-22% since 2010 and battery alarms from 38 to 40% over the same nine years.

Said Turtle, “Since it seems that the fire alarm industry either will not, or cannot, improve on these massive failure rates – it becomes the essential task of landlords to test, test and test again to ensure that their tenants are safe. No landlord wants fire casualties let alone a fire death on their watch and of course if the landlord cannot demonstrate that a property Fire Risk Assessment was in place as well as documented fire alarm testing then the threat of prosecution looms large.”

Landlords also need to do more to educate tenants on the real risk and devastating effect of fire as the majority seems to have no concept of its devastation even post Grenfel since they don’t relate a massive fire like that to their simple flat, house or HMO.


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