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Updated: 25 Feb 2022

The smoke alarm laws in Scotland have changed - here's what you need to know

A month after new smoke, heat and carbon monoxide alarm laws came into force in Scotland, is your home compliant? And what are the rules in the rest of the UK?
Woman testing a smoke alarm

Smoke alarm, heat alarm and carbon monoxide (CO) alarm laws changed in Scotland at the start of February 2022. One month on from the change, we outline the key things you need to know about smoke, heat and CO alarms if you live in Scotland, plus whether similar rules apply elsewhere in the UK.

All homes in Scotland, whether rented or privately-owned, now need to have interlinked smoke alarms installed and an interlinked heat alarm fitted in the kitchen. When one interlinked alarm detects danger, they should all sound. The new law applies to both new-builds and older properties.

Homes with a fuel-burning appliance also now need to have a carbon monoxide alarm installed, though this doesn't need to be linked to the smoke and heat alarms.

If you live in Scotland and haven't upgraded your alarms yet, read on to find out what you need to do.

Head over to our alarm reviews to find the best smoke alarms, heat alarms and carbon monoxide (CO) alarms, including interlinked models.

Scottish smoke, heat and carbon monoxide alarm law changes in detail

Scottish flag

Following the Grenfell Tower fire, the Scottish government now requires all homes to be better protected from fire.

Here are the key changes and everything else we know so far about the new alarm laws and how they will be policed.

  • Interlinked smoke alarms need to be fitted in the most used-room in a property. In most homes this will be the living room or a lounge diner.
  • You'll also need interlinked alarms in hallways and landings.
  • An interlinked heat alarm - which detects rapid rises in temperature - should be installed in the kitchen.
  • Interlinked smoke and heat alarms need to be mains-wired or come with sealed batteries.
  • Smoke and heat alarms with replaceable batteries don't meet the requirements of the new regulations.
  • Every smoke and heat alarm will need to be fitted to the ceiling and should connect with other alarms through radio. They shouldn't need WiFi to be able to connect.
  • It's OK to continue to have standalone (unlinked) alarms in homes in Scotland as long as there is an interlinked system of smoke alarms and a heat alarm fitted, too.
  • All homes with a fuel burning appliance, such as a boiler, a wood burner or a fire will also need to install a CO alarm, but this doesn't need to be linked to other alarms in the home.
  • It's the property owner's responsibility to make sure that the alarms meet the new standard.

How are the smoke, heat and carbon monoxide (CO) alarm laws different in the rest of the UK?

Across the rest of the UK, alarm regulation is currently thin on the ground outside of the rental sector, where landlords are required to install and maintain alarms.

In England, for example, landlords need to install at least one smoke alarm on every storey of their property which is used as living accommodation, though there's no stipulation that they must be interlinked alarms.

Landlords are also required to fit a CO alarm in any room where solid fuel is burned. But with gas burning appliances found in many homes, the regulations also state that landlords are expected and encouraged to install working CO alarms in these rooms, too.

Most Which? members have smoke and CO alarms, regardless of regulations

While there's a lack of regulation on installing alarms in privately owned homes across most of the UK, Which? members are taking safety into their own hands.

Nine in ten have smoke alarms installed, and three-quarters of those have two alarms or more. A similar number have a smoke alarm on every floor. Seven in ten also have a CO alarm.

Read our guide on how to set your smoke alarm up and how to check that it's working.

What happens if homes in Scotland don't have interlinked alarms fitted?

Scottish parliament building

The Scottish government tells us that homeowners will have a reasonable time to fit new alarms, and local authorities have a duty to ensure homes meet the new standard.

But it doesn't expect interventions to go beyond advising homeowners about the changes.

With each local authority determining its own approach, it's unclear how this will be policed or what the penalty will be for not having the right alarms fitted.

Are funds available to help those who can't afford to install interlinked smoke and heat alarms?

A pile of coins and bank notes

A government fund has been set up through Care and Repair Scotland to help elderly and disabled people meet the cost of installation. Initially the fund was set at £500,000, but a further £500,000 of funding was announced in January 2022, doubling the total pot to £1 million.

This followed a report in December 2021 that criticised the limited nature of the fund and stated that half of the original fund had been used to help just 800 people.

Can the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service help with installation of new smoke alarms?

In addition to the financial support available through Care and Repair Scotland, a further £1m has been given to the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS) to fit alarms for vulnerable people.

Standalone alarms can still be sold and installed in Scotland, but as additional alarms to an interlinked system. The SFRS told us that along with fitting interlinked alarms, it will continue to install standalone alarms in homes where it finds no alarms at all.

Will I be insured if I have the wrong smoke alarms installed and have a house fire?

A question remains about whether you'll be insured if you have the wrong type of alarms. The Scottish government, the Association of British Insurers and the British Insurance Brokers Association advise policyholders to check their policies and speak to their insurers if it is unclear.

What do I do if my insurance claim is declined due to having the 'wrong' alarms?

If you have a claim declined and you feel you've been caught out by this recent law change, it would be worth taking your case to the Financial Ombudsman Service to determine whether you've been treated in a fair and reasonable way. Find out how to complain about unfair treatment by an insurer in our guide on taking a financial complaint to the financial ombudsman.

Interlinked smoke and heat alarms recently tested by Which?

We've recently tested a range of interlinked smoke and heat alarms - check out how they fared in our thorough lab tests.

Smoke alarms

Heat alarms