The Law and Fire Safety
Landlords have a legal obligation to ensure their rental properties are safe for tenants, and this extends to fire safety.
The Housing Act 2004
The Housing act 2004 covers fire safety in rental homes, specifically fire escape routes and the fabric of the building where a failure to carry out repairs could cause a fire to spread more easily.
The Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarm (England) Regulations 2015 states that early warning systems – smoke detectors and CO alarms – must be put in place to alert tenants in the event of a fire. The rules are as follows:
- There must be a smoke alarm on every storey of the property used as accommodation, including the ground floor if a living room is converted into a bedroom. Note that bathrooms and toilets also count as ‘accommodation’.
- A CO alarm is needed if there is a solid fuel appliance in the property, e.g., log burner or open fire.
At Carrick Johnson alarms are tested when the tenant moves in. The tenant is also made aware of their personal responsibility to check alarms are operational on a regular basis.
The Housing Health & Safety Rating System (HHSRS)
The HHSRS was prepared for use with the Housing Act 2004. It lists the areas landlords should focus on when reviewing the condition of their properties. Although it doesn’t set minimum standards, it is a useful tool for fire risk assessment purposes, as it offers guidance on potential hazards.
Local authorities can also use the HHRSR when carrying out safety inspections, particularly in HMOs.
Fire is hazard #24 in the HHSRS guide. It covers causes, preventative measures, HMOs, and hazard assessment.
Fire Risk Assessments
It’s important a regular fire risk assessment is carried out in your rental property. Ideally, this should be done twice a year, but it is recommended that a new one is carried out when a change of tenancy takes place.
The idea of a fire risk assessment is to identify fire hazards and risk areas,
Fire Risk Assessment Checklist
There are five areas taken into account with each fire risk assessment:
- Fire Hazards – Looking for potential fire hazards in the property, such as candles, bottles of lighter fluid, a gas stove, basically anything that could start or spread a fire. Make a note of where these are found.
- Evaluate and Mitigate Risks Too many appliances and gadgets plugged into an overloaded electrical circuit are also high-risk. Even decorative items like candles can start fires when left unattended.
- Check multiple extension leads, clutter stored in hallways and around exit doors, batteries removed from smoke detectors, tenants who are smokers, gas or oil burning space heaters, etc.
- Plan and Instruct Devise a fire escape plan. Think about how tenants could get out in the event of a fire. Would they be able to climb out of upstairs windows on to a garage roof, for example?
- Discuss findings with tenants and offer advice on how to improve fire safety, such as removing clutter from communal areas. Making sure they understand it is their responsibility to keep exits clear.
- Review and Make Changes When Necessary arrange repairs and replace worn items, such as a faulty gas stove or non-functioning smoke alarms when necessary.
Essential Fire Safety Equipment in Rental Homes CO detectors and smoke alarms are essential in rental properties. Follow the requirements of the Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarm (England) Regulations 2015. Wired smoke alarms and CO detectors are best, as these can’t be disabled by tenants and you won’t need to check whether new batteries are needed.