Carbon Monoxide Poisoning – the landlord’s responsibility

co-decal11Every winter, people across the UK are injured, and even killed, by Carbon Monoxide(CO) poisoning. The implications for you, the landlord, are serious and frightening. We all must understand the dangers and what measures we need to take under our ‘Duty of Care‘ to our tenants.

Major matters and questions about the CO poisoning:

What causes CO?

It’s a given off as a bi-product of virtually any combustion process – any household appliance that burns natural gas, coal, oil, bottled gas, paraffin, wood, petrol, diesel or charcoal is a potential source of a CO leak if it goes wrong or the flue becomes blocked. Boilers and cookers are the most usual source of a leak.

Why is CO so dangerous?

CO is a very toxic gas. In very bad leaks, it could render a person unconscious and dying within just a few minutes, although that’s not typical. Most victims tend to be poisoned in their sleep and die over the course of the night. Smaller leaks lead to cumulative poisoning with lasting damage to the lungs, heart and brain.

Whose responsibility is it to protect tenants?

Time and time again, it’s been shown that it is the landlord’s responsibility under ‘Duty of Care‘ to adequately protect the tenant. After all, it’s your heating appliance….

There have been a number of high profile court cases in this area, involving both private landlords and local authorities. These have involved criminal charges such as manslaughter as well as civil actions.

How do I go about protecting tenants?

There is no substitute for ensuring that all appliances are installed properly and maintained regularly by CORGI-approved contractors. However, appliances can go wrong between yearly inspections, so you should seriously consider installing a quality CO alarm. This is just like a smoke alarm, except that it detects CO fumes rather than smoke. Our recommendation: Aico Ei261ENRC Carbon Monoxide Alarm With Rechargable Lithium Cell Back-Up.

Should I install a battery or mains power powered CO alarm?

Obviously a battery alarm(example: Aico EI205ENA Battery Operated Carbon Monoxide Alarm) is better than nothing. The detection technology is actually very good in some units and they shouldn’t be underestimated. However, as many landlords have discovered with battery smoke alarms, tenants may disable them by removing batteries and may not replace expired batteries. For complete peace of mind, a mains powered solution is preferable.

What features should I be looking out for?

Kitemarking, compliance with BS ED 50921: 2001 and a minimum five year guarantee are vital. Other features to look out for are Test/Hush buttons, high and low level alarms, auto-self checking functions and a horn that sounds completely different to a smoke alarm.

PS. This article has also been published on knol, under the title: Carbon Monoxide Poisoning – the Landlord’s responsibility.

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