Known as the 'silent killer', Carbon Monoxide (CO) continues to pose a significant health risk in people's homes, responsible for an estimated 4,000 hospital visits and 50 deaths from CO poisoning each year.
The deadly gas is produced by the incomplete burning of natural gasses or liquified petroleum gas.
It can be produced if a gas appliance has been poorly fitted, not maintained properly or badly repaired. It can also be produced if chimneys, vents or flues are blocked.
CO is clearly an everyday health risk and even small amounts of the gas can cause poisoning, potentially leading to long-term side-effects.
That's why there are a range of Government rules and regulations focused on Carbon Monoxide alarms with the aim of reducing the risk of poisoning in people's homes.
In 2015, new measures were introduced which require private landlords to install a CO alarm in any room in their rental properties which is used as living accommodation where solid fuel is used.
Now the Government is reviewing this legislation - as well as a range of other non-rental sector measures relating to CO alarms - to see if it remains fit for purpose.
What is being reviewed and why?
The review was recently called by the Housing Minister, Dominic Raab. It will assess the rules which require CO alarms to be fitted in homes across England and Wales.
Once the review - which is due to be launched later this year - is complete, MPs will consider whether the regulations need reforming.
Any future changes proposed as a result of this review would also be required to take into account the Government's consultation on the operation of private rented alarm regulations as well as the Dame Judith Hackitt independent review into building regulations and fire safety.
The review will look into the cost of alarms and whether this affects installation rates - potentially increasing the risk of cases of CO poisoning occurring.
What's more, it will assess whether a blanket requirement to install alarms for all methods of heating, including gas and oil, should be introduced.
The Government says there is a 'downwards trend' of CO poisonings, but that it is keen to raise awareness of the risks posed by combustion appliances and the measures available to reduce the risk of poisoning.
The review has been championed by Eddie Hughes, MP for Walsall North and a member of the All Party Parliamentary Carbon Monoxide Group.
"Carbon monoxide can be a silent killer and my top priority is to ensure people remain safe and protected in their own homes," said Housing Minister, Dominic Raab.
"Working with Eddie Hughes, who has a long track record of campaigning on this issue, this review will look into the adequacy of the current laws and ensure they are providing residents with the necessary protection."
According to Government figures, around 8 million CO alarms are currently installed in homes across England. Meanwhile, the latest English Housing Survey - published in January - shows that in 2016 28% of Private Rented Sector (PRS) dwellings has a CO alarm and 35% of PRS dwellings with a solid fuel appliance had a CO alarm.
How can you or your tenants spot a CO leak?
There are a number of signs which could mean there is a CO leak in a property, as set out below courtesy of the Gas Safe Register. It's important you are aware of these tell-tale signs and it could also be beneficial to share them with your tenants so they can remain vigilant too.
- Flames of a lazy yellow or orange colour on a gas hob, rather than being a crisp blue;
- Dark staining on/around appliances;
- Pilot lights that frequently blow out;
- Increased condensation inside windows.
Remaining compliant could save lives
Carbon Monoxide production is a serious issue and landlords need to do all they can to reduce the risk of it occurring in their rental properties.
As well as making sure that a CO alarm is installed in every room used as living accommodation where solid fuel is used, you must also make sure the alarms are in working order at the start of each new tenancy.
This Government booklet provides some useful information and reminders. You should also make sure that all gas appliances are checked regularly by a Gas Safe registered engineer to help minimise the risk of CO being produced.
Being a proactive landlord is vital when it comes to CO production and making your tenants aware of the risks and what they need to look out for could also help to save lives in the future.