Buy Now My Account 0

Insurance Companies allay Scottish householders’ fears

Back to News
- Published 19th January 2022

(Extracted from the The National newspaper)


INSURERS have sought to allay householders' fears about new fire alarms regulations due to be introduced in Scotland next month.

Under the new rules, homes must have interlinked smoke alarms in the living room, hallways and landings and a heat alarm in the kitchen. Carbon monoxide alarms should also be fitted next to a fuel-burning appliance like a boiler.

Interlinked alarms all go off if one of them is triggered.

Last month one insurance firm said that claims may not be valid if householders do not have the new alarms fitted.

Shona Robertson, partner at Aberdeen insurance broker H&R Insurance, told the Sunday Post: "Generally, insurers have written in their policy conditions that policyholders must comply with all regulations and statutory conditions which, as of February, will include the new fire safety guidelines.

"It will be the expectation that properties comply with the new legislation, and unfortunately failure to comply may jeopardise your claim. Insurance companies may be sympathetic to those who have yet to upgrade their system but there is no guarantee."

But today the Association of British Insurers (ABI) pointed out that companies would ask questions about whether the property is fitted with working alarms, but not demand to know the details of the type of alarm. A spokesman for ABI urged Scots to speak to their home insurance firm.

"Insurers will expect that households and businesses are compliant with any legislation on requirements for the property, such as a requirement to have fire alarms" he said.

READ MORE: SNP ministers urged to delay new fire alarm rules as homeowners 'not ready'

"They may ask customers questions about whether the property is fitted with working fire alarms, but are not likely to ask questions about specific standards.

"It will be for individual insurers to decide how they respond to the new standard - anyone who is unclear on their policy terms and conditions in relation to the new law in Scotland should speak to their insurer."

The requirement for linked alarms was delayed by a year and the pandemic is still causing problems in the delivery of alarms, partly due to a global semiconductor shortage, and disruption caused by Covid.

With the majority of homeowners unaware of the new law, MSPs, council leaders and fire protection experts have urged a year-long delay to the legislation due to come into force on February 1.

The law was proposed following the Grenfell Tower fire in 2017, which claimed the lives of 72 people. There were 46 deaths from house fires in Scotland in 2020-21, more than double the previous year.

The legislation already applies to rented property, with responsibility for the installation of alarms on the landlord, but is now being extended to all of Scotland's 2.46 million households.

West Lothian Council has written to the Scottish Government urging the deadline be pushed back another year.

Council leader Lawrence Fitzpatrick told the Sunday Post last month: "I asked 20 constituents in my ward at random what was their position on the new smoke alarms. Eight knew nothing about it. Five felt it too expensive, and the rest were getting or already had the alarms.

"A 78-year-old neighbour phoned one contractor who said they were booked right through to the end of February, and other contractors couldn't do it either. The person ended buying the kit themselves and getting a joiner friend to install it.

"There are going to be tens of thousands who are not going to have the alarms installed by the deadline."

Meanwhile, Scottish Labour has demanded an emergency statement at Holyrood over the new fire alarm laws.

The party said a minister needed to explain the changes facing homeowners.
Labour claimed the new legislation had been beset by problems, including a lack of public awareness, affordability worries, and even a shortage of equipment.

Age Concern has also called for a further one-year delay to the law, saying there was "no chance" that most private homes were compliant.

Under the changes, all homes must have interlinked fire and smoke alarms, plus carbon monoxide alarms where required, with the costs of at least £200.

Labour said the Government's failure to promote the changes and ready the public meant hundreds of thousands of households could still fall short of the standards next month.

Scottish Labour MSP Mark Griffin said: “The SNP need to deal with this fiasco. We are now just two weeks away from these rules hitting homeowners, potentially making their home insurance worthless.

“It beggars belief that the SNP are still refusing to consider a delay, despite mounting chaos around the new rules. Most homeowners don’t even know these law exist, and those who do are being hit by supply shortages and hefty bills.

“The SNP cannot keep ignoring the mess they have made of this policy. They need to give an urgent statement to Parliament this week so we can get the answers homeowners need.”

READ MORE: Smoke alarm law change: Time to get ready

Age Concern chief executive Brian Sloan said: “It has become abundantly clear that a further extension to this deadline is needed.

"More than a year ago we said to the Scottish Government that they needed to 'reset the clock' on this work as the original two years lead time had been lost, and nothing that we have seen or heard in the last few months leads us to believe that this isn’t still needed.

"There is no chance that the vast majority of private residences have had this work done, and as the deadline looms the very foreseeable challenges people face to have these alarms fitted within a year, in the volume required, and with the backdrop of Covid-19 remain.

"Issues surrounding supply and availability of the devices, affordability, support to fit the alarms, and the risk of scams associated with the work have been raised regularly with our helpline over the last year.

"There has also been growing anxiety about letting tradespeople into their homes as the new Covid-19 variant spreads.

“While the fire safety improvements are important, when you consider the incredibly low awareness and compliance a year ago, the late starting national PR campaign, and the lack of clarity on home insurance implications, it was far too ambitious to expect this to have been completed in a year.”