Fire extinguisher

Reducing your risk of arson as a landlord

25 September 2019
In recent years there has been an increase in the number of property owners who have had their buildings intentionally set on fire. It is estimated that every year, 30,000 buildings are deliberately set on fire, which costs the UK up to £300m.
There are many reasons why people will intentionally set fire to things, such as vandalism, retaliation or covering up other crimes like embezzlement. Regardless of the reason, it is important to know the costs of fires and how you can reduce your risk.

A fire can be costly for anyone, but there are specific costs that relate to property owners specifically:

  • Damage to your property, such as: structural weakness or destruction and/or smoke or heat damage such as discolouration.
  • Injury or death to people on-site at the time.
  • Insurance claims against the property owner.
  • Loss of income from renters.
  • Fines if you are found to not be abiding by fire safety regulations.
  • Increased insurance premiums.

As you will know, property owners are responsible for fire safety at their rented property, so consider the following to help you reduce the risks of arson to your property:

  • Conduct a solid risk assessment that identifies the risks to your property from an arson attack such as the building materials.
  • Keep up to date with any vandalism or fires starting to appear in your area, as this could be a sign that you could be a target.
  • Make regular visits to your property, making inspections to check that your property is secure and complying with fire safety.
  • Have an up to date list of who has keys for your property and make sure that any missing keys are found.
  • Encourage your tenants and any staff you have to look out for suspicious people or behaviour and support them in reporting this to the relevant authorities.
  • Make sure that your premises are secured by:
    1)    Installing fences and more modern, safer locks.
    2)    Encouraging your tenants to lock the windows and doors.
    3)    Having alarms installed on your premises as a bare minimum for security. If you want extra security, install CCTV.
    4)   Identifying ways that someone could gain access to your property, such as drainpipes or trees and finding ways that eliminate this risk, such as vandal grease.
  • As a landlord, you must ensure that your property has fire safety features, such as:
    1)    A fire alarm system that has been approved by a professional and is linked to a fire alarm receiving centre.
    2)    A safe place that you can store and lock up flammable fluids.
    3)    Somewhere that you can safely store waste so that it isn’t a fire hazard.
    4)    Fire extinguishers, hoses and/ or sprinklers.
  • Regularly inspect your fire safety equipment to make sure that it works if needed.
  • Have comprehensive fire cover included in your insurance policy, and if you don’t, talk to your broker to have it added.
  • Have a continuity plan in case you suffer an arson attack and have a period of business interruption and a clean-up cost.

Of course, arsonists will be prosecuted if caught, but property owners should also be aware of their legal responsibilities, such as:

  • Compliance with the relevant fire safety regulations, such as the Regulatory Reform Order 2005 in England and Wales, the Fire Act 2005 in Scotland, and the Fire Safety Regulations 2010 in Northern Ireland.
  • Having a thorough and compliant fire risk assessment.
  • Mitigating fire risks that are seen to be “reasonably known about”.

If your property falls victim to arson, take into account the following advice:

  • Putting your prepared continuity plan into action allows you to act swiftly so that your tenants aren’t left worrying as to what happens next.
  • You should also get in touch with the authorities as a priority and assist in their investigation where possible, which can help with catching the arsonist.
  • Speak to your broker to make sure that any costs will be covered by your insurance policy, and get started on a clean-up as soon as possible, following the investigation.
  • Make sure that you have the damage assessed so that you know how much repair you need and find how much time it will take for completion.
Source: Zywave Inc - Property Management Risk Insights: Reduce Your Risk of Arson

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