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A Fire Safety Guide for Landlords

28th October 2021

A fire within a residential property can cause devastating damage, leaving homes uninhabitable and ending up with costly repairs. More importantly than this, a fire can be a serious health risk to your tenants, especially in a multistory flat. According to Firemark, the risks of a fire happening in rented or shared accommodation pose a seven times higher risk, and as a landlord, you should be aware of this.

Fire safety is paramount all year long, but as we approach the festive period, it’s important to be more vigilant. With the extra use of heating and electricals, like fairy lights, and the increased consumption of alcohol, the risk of a fire starting is more likely. As a landlord, there are many legal obligations you need to follow to ensure the safety of your building and your tenants otherwise legal action could be taken against you. 

Causes of fires

There can be many causes of fires in a residential building, including candles, faulty appliances, cigarettes, overuse of extension leads, and portable heaters. Some of the most common claims are usually due to electrical faults and arson.

Fires in dwellings have been slowly decreasing over the years, but statistics show that in 2018-19, 29,570 fires were attended to by fire services in the UK alone. Fire damage claims are among the highest received by insurers. Between 2015 and 2020, the average claim paid was £18,503, and the largest claim paid out was for a case, where the tenant started the fire on purpose, of a massive £265,385. Shockingly, 10% of fires reported in 2018-19 were caused deliberately.

Landlord’s responsibilities

Landlords need to follow the safety regulations for private rental properties to avoid any legal issues and prosecutions. As a bare minimum, landlords must provide a carbon monoxide alarm in any room with a fuel-burning appliance and smoke alarm on each storey. They must check tenants are aware of fire escape routes and make sure all furnishings supplied are fire safe. 

1) Smoke and carbon monoxide alarms 

The most common cause of death from fire-related incidents was due to inhalation of gas or smoke. Landlords are required by law to have at least one smoke alarm on each floor of their properties. These alarms must be in full working order and landlords should encourage tenants to test them monthly.

2) Fire escape routes

Landlords are responsible for ensuring all tenants have access to a reliable escape route from every floor and every room. These routes can be external or internal, but they all need to have emergency lighting and the floors/walls should be made of fire-resistant materials. 

3) Fire-safe furnishings

Any furnishings provided by landlords for tenants must be made from fire-resistant materials and meet fire safety standards. This information can be found on the manufacturer’s label in the form of a fire safety symbol. The only items that don’t need to meet these standards are mattresses and bedding. 

4) Fire extinguishers

Fire extinguishers are only compulsory in large HMOs but it’s a good idea to have them within your build, regardless of the property type. In HMOs, one fire extinguisher should be provided per floor and one fire blanket for each kitchen.

5) Fire risk assessment

Regular fire risk assessments are a legal requirement for rental properties as they identify the causes of fires, and highlight the potential hazards and precautions the landlord should take. We recommend reviewing the risk assessment every two years and updating it every four.

6) Fire doors

Currently, only HMOs are legally required to have fire doors. It’s vital to check the legal obligations for installation and operation if you operate any HMOs. Fire doors can be very effective at containing fires if in full working order. As many fires start in the kitchen, it can be worth considering installing a fire door here even if you don’t own an HMO building.

7) Electrical safety 

Landlords are responsible for making sure that electrical wiring, fuse boxes, and sockets are safe. Recent regulations were introduced in January 2019, which require all landlords to have their electrical installations inspected by a qualified person at least once every five years. Landlords should also complete PAT testing of electrical appliances. It isn’t compulsory but it is recommended to avoid increased risk.

8) Gas safety check

Landlords are required by law to make sure that any gas equipment supplied is installed and maintained by a Gas Safe registered engineer and they complete an annual gas safety check on each appliance. Landlords must also provide tenants with a copy of the record before they move in too. This is a very important factor in a fire safety check as gas can cause explosions when near a fire.

9) Ban smoking indoors

There are already restrictions on where tenants can and can’t smoke, but it’s not against the law for tenants to smoke in rental properties, but by banning smoking indoors in your building you reduce the likelihood of fires and damages to the building.

What to do if there is a fire

In the event of a fire, it’s important to act quickly and save lives. Use fire extinguishers and blankets to combat the fire if possible and call emergency services immediately. Be sure to take lots of photos with timestamps to log the fire. These will also come in handy when contacting the insurers of the situation and beginning the claims process. You must have landlord insurance in place as it will provide you with peace of mind that you won’t be broke due to the cost of any repairs.

If you want us to complete a fire risk assessment for you or want to enquire about fire safety training for your workforce, then contact us today on 0800 799 9514, or click here to fill out our online enquiry form.