Fire Safety Regulations For Rental Properties
The Housing Act 2004, including the Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS), sets out the primary fire safety responsibilities applicable to landlords in the UK. In particular, it states that tenants must be able to escape quickly during a fire. Landlords must make repairs to ensure that, where possible, fire-resistant materials are used in the structure of the building, such as ceilings, so that fire cannot spread quickly to other rooms.
Specifically, landlord responsibilities include:
- Keeping escape routes clear and ensuring that your tenants understand their need to do so too – so no bikes or pushchairs blocking exits.
- Being careful to avoid fire hazards – electrical leads or tea towels near hobs, for example – and educating your tenants about these risks.
- Carrying out an annual portable appliance test (PAT) on any small electrical appliances you have supplied.
- Ensuring that all electrical appliances have a British or European safety mark. If they do not display this label, they must be replaced.
- Making sure that a spark device is used to light any gas appliance or hob and never matches.
Furniture And Furnishings Regulations
All upholstered furniture and furnishings provided by the landlord must meet fire safety standards. Sofas, cushions, chairs, or mattresses must carry the fire-resistant symbol. These rules are outlined in the Furniture and Furnishings Fire Safety Regulations 1988 (as amended in 1989, 1993 and 2010).
During property inspections, ensure your tenant has not taken these labels off for any reason.
An accurate inventory is essential because if a fire were to break out because of something a tenant had added that wasn’t safe from a fire perspective, you could prove that it wasn’t your fault.
The Smoke And Carbon Monoxide Alarm Regulations
Landlords are required by law to have at least one smoke alarm installed on every floor of their property. A carbon monoxide alarm must be installed in any room containing a solid fuel-burning appliance, such as a gas/oil boiler, a gas or wood-burning fire, or a gas cooker.
The landlord is responsible for ensuring the alarms are in working order at the start of each new tenancy.
The London Fire Brigade also recommends heat detectors in the kitchen and a smoke alarm in the lounge and hallway to give early warning to residents.
Find out more in this publication on the gov.uk website.
The Regulatory Reform Order (Fire Safety Order)
The Regulatory Reform Order 2005 is a fire safety order that covers fire safety in shared areas, such as shared kitchens or hallways in a block of flats. It says that the person responsible for multi-occupied residential buildings must carry out a fire assessment in communal areas, ensuring precautions and procedures are in place to protect the occupants in case of fire.
This order applies to landlords who own a block of flats or HMO and only covers shared communal areas.
If you are refurbishing a property before letting it out, ensure you adhere to the latest fire safety rules in building regulations.
Remember that even if you hire a contractor to complete the building work, the responsibility for compliance lies with you.
What Are Landlord’s Fire Safety Responsibilities?
Gas Safety Check
Any gas equipment supplied by the landlord must be safely installed and maintained by a Gas Safe registered engineer, with annual gas safety checks on each appliance and flue. You can check the Gas Safe register to find an engineer to complete your gas safety checks. A copy of the gas safety check must be provided to the tenant before they move in or within 28 days of the check for existing tenants.
Electrical Inspection Check
Landlords must ensure that electrical wiring, sockets, and fuse boxes are safe throughout the tenancy, with electrical installation inspections taking place at least every five years. The tenant should be provided with a copy of the electrical inspection report under the electrical safety regulations.
PAT (portable appliance testing) is not mandatory in the electrical safety legislation. Still, it is highly advisable to have electrical appliances tested, as most accidental domestic fires in the UK originate from cooking appliances and white goods.
Smoke And Carbon Monoxide Alarms
Working smoke and carbon monoxide alarms are critical to saving lives in a fire. Landlords must have at least one working smoke alarm installed on each floor. A carbon monoxide alarm must be in every room that contains a solid fuel-burning appliance. The landlord is responsible for checking that alarms are working on the day tenants move in, and they should encourage tenants to check that the alarms are working at least every month.
Furniture And Furnishings
If landlords provide furniture and furnishings in the rental property, they must ensure they meet fire safety standards and are made from fire-resistant materials. Landlords are not responsible for furniture or appliances the tenants bring to the property.
Access To Escape Routes
Another important landlord fire safety responsibility is ensuring tenants always have access to a safe and reliable fire escape. The escape routes can be internal or external and must be accessible from every room in the property.
Fire Extinguishers And Blankets
While fire extinguishers are not a mandatory requirement for standard buy-to-let properties (non-HMOs), it is still a good idea to provide domestic fire extinguishers and blankets to help protect tenants and minimize property damage.