'No delay' to law requiring Scottish homes to fit interlinked fire alarms

Laws requiring Scottish homeowners to install new interlinked fire alarms will come into force on February 1 after the Scottish Government confirmed there would be no further delay.

Housing secretary Shona Robison confirmed the rules, which had been delayed for a year due to the Covid-19 pandemic, would come into force at the start of next month.

The legislation requires homes to be fitted with interlinked fire alarms, with a smoke alarm in the living room – or the room you use most, a smoke alarm in every hallway or landing, and a heat alarm in the kitchen.

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Scottish Government guidance suggests the cost of complying with the rules can cost around £220. However, Scottish Labour claimed costs were often much higher and choosing not to delay the scheme would hit vulnerable Scots already struggling with the cost of living.

The Scottish Conservatives also attacked the scheme, stating Scottish Government research had concluded one in ten Scottish homeowners were unaware of the changes to the law.

Speaking in the Scottish Parliament, Tory MSP Miles Briggs said: “There is nothing new in this statement today and I think that will be of concern to many householders across Scotland.

"These regulations were postponed a year ago and I think that was a welcome step forward.

Shona Robison has said rules about fire alarms in homes will not be delayed for another year.Shona Robison has said rules about fire alarms in homes will not be delayed for another year.
Shona Robison has said rules about fire alarms in homes will not be delayed for another year.

"Why, in this case, given that the actual Covid restrictions are not going to lifted until Monday, why she hasn’t heard that call again?”

Mr Briggs also asked Ms Robison how many houses still needed to have the devices fitted. However, the minister said she could not provide a figure at this time.

Labour’s housing spokesperson Mark Griffin said his party welcomed the legislation, but raised concerns around insurance and called for a formal delay.

He said: “If homeowners can’t comply, then this measure won’t save the lives we hope it will.

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"Does the Cabinet secretary accept that insurers will have every right to interpret the legal enforcement date and the standards as the one in law, and relying on them maybe not being likely to ask questions doesn’t give homeowners the assurance they deserve?

"Letting that happen when so many homeowners can’t get access to alarms is bad policy.”

Ms Robison attempted to allay fears those who have been unable to fit the new fire alarms would see their home insurance voided or be subject to enforcement action by local authorities.

She also claimed the alarms were available for purchase and delivery for Scots who still need to install the devices.

The housing minister said: “We’ve engaged pro-actively with the Association of British Insurers throughout the legislative process and they have ensured their members were aware of the changes and have stated that while insurers may ask customers questions about whether the property is fitted with working fire alarms, they are not likely to ask questions about specific standards.

"Anyone who is unclear on their policy terms and conditions in relation to the new law should speak to their insurer.

"It is local authorities who have the duty for ensuring compliance with these standards in their local area.

"They will be taking a proportionate and measured approach to compliance, taking individual circumstances into account as well as reflecting the evolving situation with the Covid-19 pandemic.

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"I can be absolutely clear that there are no penalties for non-compliance and no-one will be penalised if they need more time.”

Want to hear more from The Scotsman's politics team? Check out the latest episode of our political podcast, The Steamie.

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