Delay fire and smoke alarm deadline by at least a year, says Age Scotland

Age Scotland has called on the Scottish Government to delay the looming deadline for homeowners to install interlinked fire and smoke alarms amid concerns of the lack of public awareness and the short term risk of scams and rogue traders.

The charity, which also has considerable concerns about the ability for people on low incomes to afford the measures, is urging the move to be pushed back from 1 February 2021 until spring 2022 to make up for the year lost due to COVID-19.

This new legislation introduces new safety standards that require interlinked fire and smoke alarms throughout the house. It affects around 1.5 million homes in Scotland. 34% of these owner-occupied homes are lived in by older people.

The Scottish Government estimates the average cost of buying the various interlinked alarms to be around £220 but does not include the cost, if needed, to fit and set them up.

There are 150,000 pensioners in Scotland living in poverty and hundreds of thousands more on low and fixed incomes.

Adam Stachura, Age Scotland’s head of policy, said: “While there is no doubt that this is a very important move to improve community and home safety, bringing private homes into line with the private rented sector, it has caught most homeowners by complete surprise. The public awareness and promotion of this significant change leaves a lot to be desired and there has been near radio silence from the Scottish Government about this over the course of the year.

Age Scotland’s helpline has been inundated with calls from older people over the last week seeking more information, advice on who can help install these alarms, and if there is financial support available to them as they are on low and fixed incomes. Many callers are anxious about allowing new people into their homes at a time when COVID-19 transmission rates are high and wondering how on earth it will be possible to get the necessary work done before the deadline in just a few months.

“We have essentially lost a year to be able to comply with this change in the law as a result of coronavirus and it seems wholly unlikely that any significant steps will be achieved with only three months left. There are considerable concerns about the affordability of this for hundreds of thousands of older people who now face a significant new bill with not enough time to save up. There is also an increased risk of scams and rogue traders, and potential implications for home insurance policies if people do not meet the deadline.

“The Scottish Government should, at the very least, extend the deadline for this requirement to the spring of 2022 in order to give homeowners enough time to plan, save, and get this important work done without the risk of breaking the law.”

The Association of British Insurers (ABI) confirmed that householders could face issues with cover if they did not comply with the law.

An ABI spokeswoman said: “Insurers will have their own approach to the new regulations, any requirements homeowners have to meet to make a claim will be in the terms of their policy. If the homeowner fails to meet the terms of their policy it could impact their claim.”

Ministers said they were considering a delay in the deadline, adding a decision would be made shortly.

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “In light of the challenges posed by the coronavirus pandemic, the Scottish Government is actively considering a delay in the deadline to carry out this important safety work. A decision will be announced shortly.

“Improving fire safety is a key priority for the Scottish Government. The tragic events at Grenfell Tower emphasised how important building and fire safety is, which is why, following consultation, we announced in 2018 that the standards that already existed in the private rented sector would be applied to all homes. Our intention is that everyone should benefit from the same level of protection, whether you own your home or rent from a social or private landlord.”

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