Private landlords across Tyne and Wear are being urged to ensure they are ready for new fire safety laws aimed at saving dozens of lives a year.
The regulations, which make it compulsory for all landlords to fit smoke alarms in rented homes, are expected to come into effect from October 1, 2015, subject to Parliamentary approval.
Under the new laws, smoke alarms must be fitted on every floor of the property, as well as carbon monoxide alarms in properties that burn solid fuels.
Landlords must check the alarms are working at the start of every new tenancy, with potential penalties of up to £5,000 if they do not comply.
Area Manager for Community Safety Kevin Gardner, Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service, said: “The vast majority of landlords offer a good service and have installed smoke alarms in their homes, but this law is being introduced to ensure every tenant can be given this important protection.
“People without a working smoke alarm in their home are at least four times more likely to die in a fire.
“The change in the law will improve the safety of families and stop dozens of people from losing their lives to fire each year.
“Anyone living in private rented accommodation that does not have working smoke alarms should speak to their landlord about it and ensure that they have them fitted as soon as possible.”
Between April 1, 2013 and March 31, 2014, there were 105 accidental house fires in privately rented accommodation across Tyne and Wear, almost a quarter of which did not have smoke alarms fitted.
Between 2006/7 and 2013/14 there were 836 fatalities in Great Britain where a smoke alarm was absent. During the same period there were 14 fatalities where there was no smoke alarm in Tyne and Wear.
While overall smoke alarm ownership in the country stands at around 90 per cent, those living in private rented homes are far less likely to have a working smoke alarm.
Paul Booth, of letting agency Fresh Property Centre, said: “The figures speak for themselves, and it is up to all landlords to protect their tenants by making sure they have working smoke alarms. I would urge all private landlords to take action now, rather than waiting for the law to change.”
Over the next ten years, it is estimated that the new laws will result in 231 fewer deaths and 5,860 less injuries.
To help landlords gear up for the new regulations, Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service has a number of smoke and carbon monoxide alarms that landlords can apply to have supplied and fitted free of charge.
To find out more and to apply for free smoke alarms, go to www.twfire.gov.uk/plr