Fire safety is an important consideration for all landlords. While the regulations vary depending on the type of property, it is vital that you understand your obligations and fulfill them.
Every year there are more than 50,000 residential fires in the UK. Disturbingly, private renters are seven times more likely to suffer a fire in their home. But with some prudent preparation, you can help to minimise that risk.
Whilst our guide can give you an overview of landlords' fire safety duties, be sure to seek professional advice before you make any important decisions and be aware that the legislation may change.
Fire alarms are amongst the most important parts of a landlord’s fire safety responsibilities. They are the first line of defence against fire.
Your responsibilities are set out in the Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarm Regulations 2015, and they came into force on 1 October 2015.
You must install at least one fire alarm on every storey that is used for accommodation, and a carbon monoxide alarm in rooms in which solid fuel is used.
The regulations do not stipulate what type of alarm must be used, but it is important that heat detectors cannot be used in place of smoke alarms.
It is extremely important that landlords comply with these requirements, as failure to do so is not only dangerous but could lead to a fine of up to £5,000.
The landlord must test the alarms at the beginning of every tenancy, but during the tenancy it is usually the tenant’s responsibility to ensure that they are still working and, for example, to change the battery. The government suggests that alarms should be checked monthly.
The monthly fire alarm tests can be conducted by either the tenant or the landlord, but it's important that a log book is kept as a record of the dates of each check.
If testing does fall with the tenant, the landlord should instruct the tenant on what exactly needs checking and keep a regular eye on the situation.
In addition to fire and, where applicable, carbon monoxide alarms, landlords have a series of other important fire safety obligations.
In the case of multi-occupied residential buildings, you may be required to conduct a fire risk assessment. The purpose of this is to determine the risk of fire, and the potential consequences for the safety of tenants. The risk assessment applies to the common parts of the block. Detailed information on the process can be found on the local government website.
If your property is a House in Multiple Occupation, you may also have a responsibility to provide fire extinguishers.
You must also ensure that tenants have access to escape routes at all times, regardless of the type of property, and that they are made aware of these. These cannot be obstructed for any reason.
Importantly, any furniture and fittings provided by the landlord must be certified fire safe, although the same responsibility does not fall on the tenant for items they bring with them.
Gas and electrical systems are a potentially significant fire hazard, and should be factored into your thinking around fire safety.
With regard to gas, landlords are obliged to ensure that any equipment is installed by a Gas Safe registered engineer. That certification is also required for maintenance, and an engineer must perform a gas safety check once a year. Landlords must provide a copy of the report at the start of the tenancy, or within 28 days of an annual check that happens during a tenancy.
When it comes to electricity, all electrical appliances supplied by the landlord, as well as the system itself (for example sockets and fittings) must be certified safe. Unsafe appliances must be removed. In addition, instruction manuals must be provided for all supplied appliances.
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