Calls have been made for new legislation requiring interlinked smoke alarms to be fitted in every home to be delayed.
Politicians have called on the Scottish Government to postpone the requirement for all householders to pay for new systems to be fitted by February.
Under the terms of the new rules, Scottish homeowners must have a ceiling-mounted smoke alarm in their living room, hallways and landings, a heat alarm in every kitchen and carbon monoxide alarms by all fixed combustion appliances such as boilers and wood burners.
It will affect around 1.5 million homes in Scotland – and 34% of these owner-occupied homes are lived in by older people.
Many householders have recently had pamphlets delivered by electricians informing them of the works that need carried out, leading to the charity Age Scotland being “inundated” with calls from concerned members of the public.
The Scottish Government estimates the average cost of buying the various interlinked alarms to be around £220 but that does not include the cost, if needed, to fit and set them up.
North East MSP Mike Rumbles said: “It would be ridiculous to go ahead with these new rules at this time. When the new regulations for combined alarms were first proposed, nobody had any idea that we would be in the middle of a global pandemic.
“Many families and homeowners are struggling to make ends meet and for some it will be a very difficult Christmas. These changes are an unnecessary financial burden that could easily be delayed until things are back to normal.
“The Scottish Government has also asked for people to stop mixing households and having an engineer going from home to home send completely the wrong message and would only put vulnerable people at risk.”
And Moray MP Douglas Ross said: “This legislation was recently rubber-stamped by the Scottish Government, but there has been very little publicity about it and people are simply not aware of the requirements.
“People are going to be extremely worried and concerned about what it means for them and about how they are going to comply.”
Age Scotland, Scotland’s national charity supporting people over the age of 50, raised concerns about the public’s awareness of the new law, as well as the ability for people on low incomes to afford the measures.
Adam Stachura, head of policy and communications at Age Scotland, 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.”
A Scottish Government spokesman 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.”