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Landlord Alert - warning about defective CO alarms sold online

The think tank Policy Connect is warning that landlords have reported that sub-standard carbon monoxide alarms are persistently available online, leaving tenants with improper protection.

Dubbed the ‘silent killer’, carbon monoxide is a colourless, odourless and deadly gas. It cannot be detected through our senses and carbon monoxide poisoning is very difficult to diagnose. CO alarms are therefore a vital shield against carbon monoxide poisoning, alerting residents when dangerous amounts of CO are recorded over a period of time.

Policy Connect says knowing the sources of carbon monoxide can be difficult, and there is variation in requirements for installing CO alarms across the UK. 


In England, landlords of private rentals and social housing must install CO alarms in rooms with fixed combustion appliances. Wales goes a step further and includes gas cookers (which pose a threat when used without correct ventilation), while Scotland also mandates owner-occupied homes to install CO alarms but does not cover rooms with gas cookers.

Industry-agreed British Standards for CO alarms ensure high standards of performance and guide the correct installation of alarms. Many reputable vendors exist in the UK, but industry figures and members of the public have continued to report sub-standard, and even fraudulent, alarms being sold on online marketplaces, even after 2023 Which? investigations and the efforts of landlords and companies to hold marketplaces to account.

Policy Connect says landlords must be aware both of the risks of carbon monoxide poisoning and proper methods for protection. When purchasing an alarm, check that alarms meet domestic standards (BS EN 50291). It advises caution when using online marketplaces, as alarms sold there can be mislabelled or have dubious function, such as being ‘non-audible’.

Properly installing them according to standards (BS EN 50292) can best protect against carbon monoxide poisoning, and it is essential that both alarms and hazardous appliances are maintained. Putting an alarm in all rooms with heating or cooking appliances can give the best layer of protection – especially in the bitter winter months, when people turn the heating on and close windows.

Barry Sheerman MP, co-chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Carbon Monoxide Group (APPCOG), says: “Awareness of and protective measures against the risks of carbon monoxide are imperative. Through the persistent sale of fraudulent CO alarms online, we urge the public to ensure alarms they purchase are compliant with British Standards – measures designed to ensure the highest level of quality and protection”.

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