Posted on: 15 October 2018

Protecting your tenants and property from fire risks

As a residential landlord there are a number of rules and regulations you need to follow to help prevent fires in your property and protect your tenants. Gas safety certificates must be renewed annually, electrics must be checked regularly through PAT testing and landlords must do all they can to minimise the risk of fire in their rental property. Don’t forget, as a landlord of any property, you have legal obligations when it comes to fire safety. Adopt the attitude of doing everything you can rather than the simple bare minimum is always the best approach.

The Residential Landlords Association details a number of important pieces of legislation that apply to rental properties. So if you’re thinking of leasing a property or considering becoming a student landlord there are some laws you need to adhere to that can help you minimise the risk of fire.

We’ve summarised the current rules and regulations below to give you a helping start in fire safety. Don’t forget these regulations can vary depending on the intended use of your building and while these points will help to get you started, it is important to stay up to date with any legislative changes. For more information regarding current legislation visit the government website.

Fire regulations for landlords

The first thing to note is that every landlord must carry out a fire risk assessment on every property they let out. You must evaluate all fire risks, reduce the likelihood of a fire and ensure that people can escape if a fire breaks out. Fire risk assessments are often carried out by fire safety professionals to deliver the most thorough assessment, particularly in houses of multiple occupancy. If you own a single property, you may wish to carry this out yourself. There are many fire risk assessment templates available online.

The Housing Act 2004 & HHSRS – The Housing Health and Safety Rating System

This Act details a number of key safety points to protect your tenants from fires, burns and electric shocks, such as:

  • Escape routes must be kept clear at all times and tenants must be made aware of this
  • Removal of fire hazards near areas where a fire may start. For instance, moving combustible items away from ovens or hobs
  • Only allow a ‘spark’ type device to be used for gas cookers and hobs, preferably preinstalled on the appliance, as opposed to matches
  • Keeping up to date with PAT testing of electrical appliances
  • Making sure that all electrical appliances have a British or European Safety mark

Furniture and Furnishing (Fire Safety) Regulations 2010

This is particularly relevant for student landlords as the majority of student properties are leased fully or partially furnished. Furniture manufacturers, particularly those of soft furnishings, are required to ensure fire safety and will provide appropriate labelling indicating that an item meets the required fire safety standards.

This will include, but is not limited to, sofas, mattresses and bean bags. As a landlord of a furnished property, you must keep these labels attached to each item as it proves they have been through the relevant testing and approval.

The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005

This is particularly relevant if your rental property has shared or communal areas, for instance student properties or blocks of flats. The first aspect of this safety order states that communal areas such as landings, stairways and kitchens must be kept clear, particularly in relation to combustible items and other fire hazards. This can help people escape and minimise obstructions in the event of a fire.

Communicating this to your tenants and asking them to sign an agreement as part of their tenancy is not uncommon. It also documents your efforts to implement best practice in a shared household.

Make sure that these safety checks are carried out and recorded on a regular basis.

The Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarm Regulations 2015

One of the rules that was introduced with this legislation was that landlords must install smoke alarms on each floor of a rented property and must ensure alarms are in working order at the start of every tenancy. Failure to do so could result in a fine of up to £5,000. If you are renting out a property in Scotland, the laws are a bit stricter, so be sure to check the legislation in your country.

The law also states that carbon monoxide detectors must be installed if the premises contains a ‘solid fuel burning combustion appliance’ (e.g. a coal fire or a wood burning stove), but there is no harm installing one as an extra safety precaution.

Best practice measures can help demonstrate you have gone above and beyond your duties as a landlord. These include:

  • In addition to hardwired smoke alarms in hallways and landings, alarms in living areas should be installed – you can buy fire alarms that illuminate a safe exit if the room is filled with smoke
  • Heat alarm in the kitchen
  • Fire blankets or extinguishers near cookers and hobs

Houses of Multiple Occupancy (HMO’s)

HMO’s include student lets, blocks of flats and any other dwelling with shared or communal areas. The Housing Act 2004 defines an HMO as ‘a property occupied by more than one household and more than two people, and may include bedsits, shared houses or some self-contained flats’.

Any landlord that owns a student property or indeed any flat owner within a block that contains communal areas will need to adhere to more detailed regulation. This is not only because there’s likely to be more tenants in the property, but HMO’s often have individually lockable rooms and exits which could cause obstructions if people needed to escape.

For further advice, speak to a HMO Enforcement Officer who works for your local authority to ensure properties with multiple tenants meet the necessary standards.

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