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The new landlords guide to fire safety

3rd October 2019 Print

Being a landlord in the UK comes with certain legal and ethical responsibilities in the safety arena. In short, landlords have certain obligations to tenant safety. This includes taking appropriate fire safety measures. New landlords should take note that they are responsible for two important pieces of legislation:

- The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005; and

- The Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarm Regulations 2015.

It should also be noted that fire safety regulations are divided into two groups. The first is Group A. These apply to local housing authorities, social landlords, and owners of private residential blocks. The second is Group B. These are regulations that govern private rental sector landlords. These are landlords who own buy-to-let properties, flats existing above their businesses, and second homes they rent when they are elsewhere.

This guide deals primarily with Group B. If you need information on Group A regulations, you'll find plenty of helpful information on the GOV.UK and London Fire Brigade websites.

General Guidelines

Some fire safety rules are presented as general guidelines while others are more specific. The first of the general guidelines is the legal responsibility for landlords to ensure renters are safe from fire through the provisions of the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005.

Landlords must also have a comprehensive fire risk assessment of their properties conducted by a professional risk assessor. They must maintain fire detection and structural protection within their properties through the use of certain kinds of equipment. Finally, landlords should be developing emergency evacuation plans for each of their properties. Tenants should be made aware of these plans.

Specific Rules

The general rules in Group B leave some room for compliance. In other words, there are different ways to comply with each of those general rules. When we get into the more specific rules, there is less wiggle room. There are five specific rules landlords must comply with:

1. Fire and Carbon Monoxide Detectors

The law requires landlords to install at least one smoke alarm on every floor of a rental property. The London Fire Brigade recommends additional smoke detectors in hallways and other strategic areas throughout a residential building.

In terms of carbon monoxide detectors, the law requires at least one in any room where there is also an appliance burning solid fuel. A good example here would be a room with a wood burning stove. It is a good idea to place a carbon monoxide detector in the general vicinity of the boiler as well.

Although the regulations do not mention fire extinguishers explicitly, it's still a good idea for landlords to make sure all of their units are equipped with UK approved fire extinguishers. At least one fire extinguisher should be located in the kitchen.

Finally, landlords are required to inspect smoke and carbon monoxide detectors at the start of each new tenancy. Every detector must be in good working condition at that time.

2. Use of Fire Doors

The law requires the use of fire doors in any residential rental property with more than one unit. Fire doors serve the purpose of stopping the spread of heat and smoke in the event of a fire. Know that fire doors must be self-closing doors, and they must not be propped open at any time.

In multi-unit buildings, fire doors must be installed at corridor and staircase entryways. All flat front doors must also be fire doors. Landlords are responsible for regularly checking fire doors to make sure they have not been tampered with and remain in good working order.

3. Fire Protection Strategies

Landlords must take the necessary steps to implement fire protection and stoppage measures between flats, in corridors, within service risers, and in any areas deemed escape routes. These measures are intended to stop the spread of fire so as to give tenants time to escape.

One example would be sealing breaches that occur when a utility company runs new service lines between flats. Any breaches created by the work should immediately be sealed with an approved, fire retardant material.

4. Tenant Storage

Landlords must not allow tenants to store possessions in common areas. They are to pay special attention to corridors, stairs, and stairwells. All must remain free of obstruction in the event evacuation becomes necessary. Furthermore, tenants must not be allowed to store any possessions in electrical or gas riser cupboards.

5. Property Refurbishment

Whenever refurbishment or redecoration results in material changes to a property, the landlord is required to have a new risk assessment conducted. The landlord must act on the findings of the risk assessment in order to ensure that the building remains compliant with fire safety rules. If the project affected common areas of the property, the risk assessment must include consideration of the landlord's evacuation plan.

As you can see, fire safety regulations are quite extensive. Indeed, what you've read here is just a general overview of what landlords are expected to do. If you are new to the landlord business, it's a wise idea to consult with fire safety experts to make sure you and your properties remain in compliance.