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Safety alert in Scotland – carbon monoxide fears

Consumers’ association, Which? has raised safety concerns about the Scottish private rented sector after research showed a lack of knowledge of alarm systems and gas safety in the region – especially related to carbon monoxide poisoning.

Which? sent a series of undercover researchers to 30 property viewings with agents across Britain this year, including six in Edinburgh. Four out of the six agents in Scotland scored “poor” when asked to provide information and advice on carbon monoxide safety in the properties they let to tenants.


Carbon monoxide warning signs

As reported by the London Fire Brigade carbon monoxide is a silent killer. The fumes are highly poisonous, odourless and silent. A common cause of carbon monoxide leakage can occur due to poorly fitted gas appliances or faults in vents or chimneys.

There are a series of warning signs to look out for in a property which could signal a carbon monoxide leak:

  • Gas appliances emitting a yellow flame instead of blue
  • Flames that don’t appear to be fully formed
  • Increasing condensation on windows
  • Sooty, yellow/brown staining on or around boilers or stoves
  • Sooty marks on the front of gas fires

The symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning are:

  • Dizziness
  • Vomiting/nausea
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Headaches
  • Breathlessness
  • Collapsing


What must landlords do to comply with carbon monoxide regulations in Scotland?

The Scottish Government reports that every year there are fatalities as a result of CO poisoning directly related to combustion appliances within the property. In addition to this, a significant number of incidents require hospital treatment. In some cases, carbon monoxide poisoning can result in lasting damage and death.

In Scotland, “the property must have satisfactory provision for giving warning if carbon monoxide is present in a concentration that is hazardous to health”. Therefore, the landlord must ensure a detection system is installed in any property let to tenants where there is:

  • A fixed combustion appliance in the dwelling or
  • A fixed combustion appliance in an inter-connected space
  • A combustion appliance located in a bathroom

 You can find out more about landlords’ responsibilities from the Scottish government here.  

Which? reports that in two-thirds of the cases agents in Edinburgh were unable to tell the undercover investigator if the property had the correct alarm system, where they were located and whether they were functioning correctly. Similarly, none of the six agents were able to give specific details about the age or service history of the boilers in the property.

Managing Director of Home Products and Services at Which?, Alex Neill, said

“There are clearly real issues with letting agents showing prospective tenants properties that aren’t up to scratch.

“It’s unacceptable that all too often agents can’t answer basic questions about important issues like boiler safety and carbon monoxide alarms”

A Which? spokesperson also noted that;

“Our investigation revealed there are some highly competent, capable and professional letting agents operating, who may be overshadowed by the apathy induced by the bad ones.”


How can landlords prevent carbon monoxide poisoning?

It is a good idea for landlords to educate themselves on the dangers of carbon monoxide poisoning and the precautions you can take.

The Scottish Government and Scottish Fire and Rescue Service provide useful information for landlords, letting agents and tenants to help avoid the dangers of carbon monoxide poisoning.