Fire safety guide: 10 points for residential landlords

26 July 2021

Fire risks are something we all need to be aware of. Whether we’re a homeowner, landlord or tenant. It’s the responsibility of everyone to make sure residential buildings are safe from fire (and this fire safety guide is a great tool to help you do that).

Fire risks can develop at any time so fire safety compliances should be high on everyone’s priority list, but especially landlords. Shared rental properties are 7 times more likely to experience a fire accident. These can cause serious risk to your tenants safety and cost you a considerable amount of money.  

Landlords are required by law to fulfil several legal obligations to make sure their rental properties are safe. Whether they own one property or one hundred each location must comply with these regulations or the landlord could find themselves in trouble. 

If you’re struggling to manage your property portfolio give us a call and we can talk you through our fire consultancy service and how it could make managing your portfolio a breeze 

In this article we’ll go through the most common causes of fire in rental properties and our fire safety guide lists the 10 things you need to do to make your properties fire safe. 

 

What are the main causes of fire in residential properties?

The majority of fires in residential properties happen because of the misuse of equipment, faulty appliances or human error. Causes for fires include lit candles, faulty electrical items, unattended kitchen appliances, like deep fat fryers; cigarettes and portable heaters. 

Household fires have been decreasing in recent times. This is due in part to better fire safety regulations for business owners and a greater understanding of fire safety management from tenants. That being said, in 2018-19 fire and rescue services still attended 29,570 household fires in England. The average insurance payout for these incidents was £18,503. That should tell you how costly and dangerous these fires can be. 

Landlords need to take every reasonable precaution to avoid a fire happening. These legal requirements are listed below and landlords should be regularly checking that each of their properties adhere to these fire safety requirements.   

 

How can residential landlords make sure their properties are fire safe?

When it comes to private residential properties there are specific fire safety regulations landlords must follow. These are legal requirements and are there to protect tenant safety and the landlord’s investment. The absolute minimum a residential landlord must do is:

  • Place a carbon monoxide alarm in any room with a solid wood burning appliance
  • Check tenants have access to escape routes 
  • Make sure all furnishings are fire safe
  • Provide a smoke alarm on each story of the property
  • Provide fire alarms and extinguishers if the property is a large house in multiple occupation (HMO)  

In the next section of this article we break down these points even further into the 10 key things a landlord must do to make their residential rental properties fire safe.  

 

Landlords must provide fire safety compliant furniture

If a landlord would like to offer a furnished property to their tenants they must make sure all the furniture meets fire safety standards. This means they’re made from fire resistant materials. This information can easily be found by checking an item’s manufacturer’s label. 

There are a few pieces of furniture that are exempt from these rules: bed-bases, mattresses, pillows, cushions and bed covers. Even though it’s not a legal requirement to make sure these items adhere to fire safety standards you’d be protecting your property better if they were. A high safety standard across the board is better for everyone. 

Landlords aren’t responsible for tenant owned furniture and appliances. Everything they bring to the tenancy is their responsibility. 

 

Landlords must do gas safety checks on any gas appliances they provide 

If you want to use any gas equipment in your properties, things like gas bottle heaters or a gas stove, you must make sure the gas supply is safely installed by a professional, Gas Safe registered engineer. A landlord is also required to get a registered Gas Safe engineer to do an annual check of the property and each appliance in it. 

After a successful annual inspection the landlord will be given a gas safety certificate, this must be renewed every year. It’s a legal requirement to provide your tenants with a copy of the gas safety record for the property within 28 days of them moving in. 

 

Landlords should undertake portable appliance tests on household items

Any appliance in a property provided by a landlord must be tested in line with portable appliance test (PAT) regulations. All items provided by the landlord should come with a UK or European safety mark. 

For larger HMO properties using the services of a licensed PAT tester is a good way to manage the large amount of appliances in the property. When you’re carrying out these checks it’s worth mentioning to tenants the importance of not overloading plug sockets.  

 

Landlords must carry out regular electrical safety inspections 

In a rental property it is the legal responsibility of the landlord to check that all electrical wiring, sockets and fuse boxes are fire safe. Landlords must have all their electrical installations tested and inspected by a qualified expert once every 5 years.  They must provide electrical safety reports to their tenants and to their local authorities if they ask for them.

 

Landlords must ban smoking indoors

Admittedly, this one is difficult to enforce but it should be stressed to all tenants before they move into the property smoking is not allowed. It isn’t against the law for tenants to smoke in the house but you can put a clause in their contract that says smoking is not permitted.

Installing no smoking signs can be a visual reminder to tenants not to smoke in the house. As well as significantly reducing fire risk, no smoking in the house also protects your furniture and fitting from cosmetic burns. 

 

Landlords must provide fire safety doors where they’re needed

It’s currently only HMOs that are required to have fire doors. Make sure you check if your rental property classifies as a HMO before discounting this point. If you’re found not to have fire doors in your property when you need them you could get in trouble. 

If your property is classed as an HMO seek external advice from an expert on where they should be installed and how to do it correctly. When properly installed fire doors are very good at containing fires and toxic fumes which minimises damage and gives tenants time to get to safety.

Most household fires start in the kitchen so placing fire doors there would be a good, extra safeguard that goes beyond your legal requirements as a landlord. When tenants move in make sure you let them know how the fire doors work, how to spot any defects and to report them promptly to you if they see any. 

 

Landlords must carry out regular fire risk assessments

Fire risk assessments are a legal requirement for most rental properties in the UK. Their goal is to identify fire hazards and suggest improvements a landlord can undertake to reduce the risk of a fire in their properties.  

Standard guidance says that a fire risk assessment must be conducted on a property every two years and updated every 4. Most landlords however like to go above and beyond and check their properties once a year at least. Not only will this keep your tenants safe but it’s the best way of safeguarding your investment.

Fire risk assessments are undertaken by accredited fire risk assessors (FRAs). Total fire group has a team of qualified assessors ready to help you manage your portfolio. If you’d like to find out how we can help you you can contact us here.

 

Landlords must provide fire extinguishers and blankets where necessary 

In a large multi home in occupancy it’s a legal requirement to provide at least one fire extinguisher per floor. For regular rental properties this isn’t a legal requirement but it’s good practice to provide one regardless. 

In a large HMO a fire blanket must also be provided for each kitchen. All fire extinguishers and blankets must be checked at the start of each tenancy and periodically throughout the year. When new tenants move in make sure they know where each fire extinguisher and blanket is located. 

 

Landlords must provide clearly marked, accessible escape routes

In the event of a fire emergency it’s essential that all tenants have access to a safe and reliable escape route whenever they need it. 

Escape routes must be clearly lit at all times and be made from fireproof material to ensure they can be used in an emergency situation. Escape routes can take many shapes and sizes and include: external stairwells, internal hallways and other routes out of a building. 

The escape route must be accessible from every room and floor in the property to avoid tenants becoming stuck in a fire situation. 

Tenants must be informed of the escape routes and fire safety protocol in case a fire happens in their property. They should also be informed that they must keep the fire escape route clear of debris and not to use it for storage. 

 

Landlord must provide smoke and carbon monoxide detectors for a property

Working smoke alarms save lives, this is a well known fact. Being overcome by gas or smoke is the most common cause of death in a house fire. So it’s no surprise that landlords are required by law to have a working smoke alarm on every floor of their rental properties. 

It’s also a legal requirement to have a carbon monoxide detector in any room with a solid fuel burning appliance. A landlord must check these alarms at the start of a new tenancy and is encouraged to work with tenants to check them every month. 

When you’re doing an annual property inspection it’s also a wise idea to check your smoke and gas detectors then too. 

It’s also highly recommended, although not a legal requirement, to instal a heat detector in the kitchens and a further smoke detector in halls and communal areas. 

 

What are the tenants’ responsibilities? 

It is the legal responsibility of the landlord to make sure a property is fire safe. They have a duty of care and must make sure a property is habitable and safe for them. 

That being said, the responsibility of preventing fire in the property does fall to the tenants too. They’ll be the ones living at the property and they should be doing all they can to mitigate fire risks. 

The best way a landlord can facilitate this collaborative approach to fire safety is through regular communication with their tenants. By approaching fire safety as a joint responsibility with the mutual goal of keeping residents safe. Below we’ve listed the expected responsibilities tenants should be asked to do when they move into a rented property.   

  • Tenants should practice fire safety at all times. Whether that’s smoking outdoors, not leaving cooking food unattended or making sure they don’t overload plug sockets.
  • Tenants should keep combustible material aways from heat sources. Don’t leave cookery books next to a gas hob for example. 
  • Tenants should always keep fire doors closed
  • Tenants should always follow fire safety best practices

Working together is the best way to minimise fire risk and make sure your tenants have a pleasant time whilst living in your property. Sometimes it can be difficult to get tenants to follow these rules so it’s wise to go over them together in person and have them sign a document which stipulates they’re been given these instructions. 

If you’d like to avoid a situation where you have fire unsafe tenants living in your property, a proper vetting and interview process is a good way to make sure you get responsible tenants. 

 

Struggling to manage your portfolios fire risk assessments 

The above points we’ve mentioned above should all get checked and reviewed when a professional fire risk assessor reviews your property. At Total Fire Group, we partner with landlords who are struggling to keep track of their fire risk assessments. We offer them a much needed helping hand in organising and getting their portfolio fire safe. If you’d like to hear how we can help you contact us today.

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