There has been a lot of discussion surrounding the new fire and smoke alarm standard which will apply to all homes in Scotland. There have been reports of scams exploiting confusion around the rules and so we have answered the most frequently asked questions about the new rules.

What are the new rules?

The new standard requires every home in Scotland to have:

  • One smoke alarm installed in the room most frequently used for daytime living purposes (i.e. the living room);
  • One smoke alarm in every circulation space on each storey, such as hallways and landings; and
  • One heat alarm in every kitchen.

All these alarms must be ceiling mounted and interlinked.

In addition, if you have a carbon-fuelled appliance (such as a boiler or wood burning stove) you will also need a carbon monoxide detector. This does not need to be linked to the fire alarms.

What type of fire alarms do I need?

There are two types of alarm which meet the new standard: tamper proof long-life lithium battery alarms and mains-wired alarms. The mains-wired alarms are the cheaper option. However, since they need to be installed by a qualified electrician they may end up costing more than the battery alarms. Another advantage of the battery alarms is that they can be fixed to the ceiling without any need to wire them in.

Installing mains-wired alarms may require a building warrant if you live in a house or block of flats more than two storeys high. Your Local Authority should be able to confirm whether you need to obtain a building warrant. If you live in a listed building and the installation won't affect the character of the building you might not require listed building consent. However, you should confirm with your Local Authority that this is the case before you install a mains-wired alarm system.

What happens if I don't follow the new standard?

Failing to meet the new standard will not be a criminal offence. However, there are plenty of other reasons to comply. When it comes time to sell your home, the home report survey will check whether the property meets the new standard. It remains to be seen whether failure to meet the new standard will deter prospective purchasers or if they might try to renegotiate the price to reflect the cost of installing the system. Perhaps more importantly, failure to meet the new standard could invalidate your home insurance. This will depend on the exact wording of your insurance policy. As these changes will be part of the minimum standard for safe houses, Local Authorities could, in theory, use their statutory powers to make you meet the new standard.

Who is responsible for installing the alarms?

Homeowners are responsible for making sure their home meets the standard. If you rent your home, your landlord should have already ensured that it meets the standard as this standard is already in force for private rented accommodation. Tenants have the right to apply to the First-tier Tribunal for Scotland (Housing and Property Chamber) if they believe their landlord is failing to comply.

New-build homes should also already comply with the new standard.

Do the alarms in tenement flats need to be interlinked?

Each flat within a tenement or block of flats will need its own interlinked system. There is no requirement for the alarms in different flats to be connected. There is also no requirement to install alarms in common areas such as the stairwell or close.

New building standards legislation which comes into force on 1 March 2021 extends the requirement for automatic fire suppression systems to be installed to include new build flats, maisonettes, social housing dwelling and shared multi-occupancy residential buildings (such as student halls). This legislation only applies to new builds and will primarily be of interest to developers.

When do the rules come into force?

The new standard was originally due to come into force next month. It has now been postponed until 1 February 2022 to give people more time to comply.


Miriam Armstrong

Managing Associate