Fire safety: what do you need to consider as a landlord?

As a landlord, making sure your property is fire safe is of utmost importance no matter what time of the year it is. This article gives you advice on how to protect your properties as well as the legal responsibilities you have under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order of 2005, or as it’s more commonly known, the Fire Safety Order (FSO).

Landlords, make sure your property is fire safe over Christmas for your tenants with this easy how-to guide.

Landlords have certain legal obligations to their tenants when it comes to fire safety just as an employer would have in regards to their employees. However, although important, this does not simply involve making sure smoke detectors and fire extinguishers are properly fitted. Fire safety largely involves combating potential risks that may arise whether your building is used for single tenancy or one shared across residential lettings.

The festive period can be a particularly hazardous time for house fires and fire safety can be forgotten at this time of year. Christmas celebrations can bring a whole range of potential hazards to the home including overloading plug sockets, flammable decorations and candles left unattended. During this time, landlords must be aware of these particular factors.

Fire risk assessments

Legislation states that landlords must carry out fire risk assessments in all of their properties. This identifies any potential fire hazards, who exactly is at risk and how it can be overcome. From 1 October 2015, landlords in the private sector should have one smoke alarm equipped on each floor of their property and a carbon monoxide detector in every room that contains a solid fuel burning appliance (wood, coal etc). At the start of each new tenancy, it is the landlord’s responsibility to make sure that these are in working order.

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What does a fire risk assessment involve?

There are 5 steps to thoroughly complete a fire risk assessment:

  1. Identify fire hazards (sources of ignition, sources of oxygen, sources of fuel)
  2. Identify people at risk (people in and around the premises and people who are especially at risk i.e. children)
  3. Evaluate, remove or reduce and protect from risk (risk of fire starting, remove or reduce fire hazards, introduce fire precautions)
  4. Record, plan, inform, instruct and train (record major findings and action to be taken, prepare for an emergency, inform and instruct relevant people)
  5. Review (regularly and make changes when necessary)

Keeping your tenants safe can be done in a number of ways. Keep residents and visitors informed by placing fire safety signs that detail what to do in the event of a fire. Signs that show where the fire safety point is located, action to take upon discovering a fire and the fire exits are all required. In addition, landlords renting to non-English speakers should ensure that all tenants understand the signs and instructions.

What will happen if I don’t comply?

As a landlord, you are responsible by law to meet all of the requirements of the legislation. The Fire and Rescue Authority (FRA) will appoint inspectors to assess properties that the FRA believes the Fire Safety Order should be enforced. These inspectors will make enquires as to whether certain safeguards have been put in place, ask for fire risk assessment records, take samples of anything in the property to ascertain their flammability, dismantle or remove anything that may have caused or may be likely to cause danger.

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Examples of situations and circumstances that may be unacceptable to FRA inspectors include, but are not limited to, things such as:

  • Overcrowding of premises meaning fire safety routes will be compromised.
  • Blocked, restricted or unacceptable fire escapes.
  • Missing or defective fire alarms.
  • Excessive risk of fire spreading.

If you are found to be non-compliant, the FRA are within their rights to carry out certain courses of action ranging from an advice letter, minor deficiencies letter to an action plan. If significant failures to comply are found, the authority has the power to issue first an enforcement notice and then, in extreme circumstances, a prohibition notice that will prevent your property from being let to tenants until the correct fire safety procedures are taken.

In summary, it is extremely important to keep your property safe from fire and the repercussions that may happen if you fail to keep your tenants safe could be severe.

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