Fire safety is important in all rented accommodation, but particularly in Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs) where the fire risk can be higher.
A fire in your property can cause devastating damage, leaving your home uninhabitable in a matter of minutes and resulting in costly, time-consuming repairs which result in loss of rental income. More importantly, fire poses a significant risk to your tenants’ safety. In fact, the risks of experiencing a fire is higher for people who live in rented or shared accommodation.
As landlord, there are a number of legal obligations you need to comply with to make sure your rental property is safe. In the event that there is a fire and you have not provided suitable fire-safe accommodation, legal action can be taken against you. It is therefore extremely important for landlords to take fire safety seriously.
There are many factors for causes of fires in a property, including candles, faulty or unattended appliances, overuse of extension leads, cigarettes, deep fat fryers and portable heaters.
One of the most reported fire causes are due to electrical faults.
- If you live in privately rented accommodation, your landlord has to meet certain safety obligations under the law. This includes making sure all gas and electric appliances are safe and in good working order.
- Your landlord must ensure that the property has at least one smoke alarm on every level
- Gas appliances must be checked by a Gas Safe registered gas fitter every year.
- Electrical appliances must carry the British Safety Standard sign.
- Your landlord must also ensure furnishings are fire resistant and meet safety regulations.
- Your landlord must show you safety certificates so you can see when gas and electrical appliances were last checked.
- Your landlord must ensure a carbon monoxide alarm is present in all rooms that contain a solid fuel-burning appliance and are used as living accommodation. Landlords must test these and the required smoke alarms on the first day of the tenancy.
- Test your smoke alarms every month. If any of your smoke alarms have a one-year battery, make sure it is changed every year. Only take the battery out when you need to replace it.
Your landlord must make sure:
- the electrical system is safe, for example, sockets and light fittings
- all appliances they supply are safe, for example, cookers and kettles
Access to escape routes
Landlords are legally responsible for making sure tenants have access to a safe and reliable escape route at all times. Escape routes can be external, such as stairways fixed to the sides of buildings, or internal. To make sure they can be used in the event of a fire, escape routes need to have emergency lighting and floors and walls should be made of fire-resistant materials. They should also be accessible from every floor and every room in the property to avoid tenants becoming trapped, and tenants should be made aware of what to do in an emergency to ensure they can exit the property as quickly as possible.
Fire-safe furniture and furnishings
Landlords must ensure that any furniture and furnishings provided meet fire safety standards and are made from fire-resistant materials. This information can usually be found by checking that the manufacturer’s label carries a fire-safety symbol. The only items that don’t have to meet these standards are mattresses, bed-bases, pillows, cushions and bed covers, but of course, it is best to go above and beyond minimum requirements and do all you can to make sure that any you are meeting high safety standards. Landlords are not responsible for tenant-owned furniture and appliances – everything the tenant brings inside the property is their own responsibility.
Tenants’ fire safety responsibilities
Although landlords must make sure they meet their legal fire safety responsibilities and duty of care to their tenants, the responsibility for preventing fires in rented properties falls to tenants too.
Tenants need to make sure they are doing all they can to mitigate fire risks throughout the property. Good landlord and tenant communication can help facilitate this. For example, landlords should:
- Fully outline fire safety measures, such as the importance of carrying out regular (ideally monthly) smoke alarm tests and ask tenants to contact them without delay if they are worried about fire safety in the property
- Provide advice to prevent electrical fires – switch off and unplug appliances when not in use, don’t overload extension leads and plug sockets
- Remind tenants to take care when in the kitchen – remove pans from the heat if leaving the kitchen, keep tea towels and cloths away from the cooker and hob, clean the oven, hob and grill frequently as a build-up of grease can ignite a fire
- Ask tenants to keep Christmas cards and decorations away from heaters, fireplaces and candles and not to leave candles and open flames unattended
- Advise tenants to minimise the use of flammable substances and never to leave any near a heat source. Clothes dried near heaters cause thousands of house fires every year
- Make sure tenants know how to be prepared – agree on a safe place to keep the window and door keys so that everyone can find them in case of an emergency, make sure everyone knows the escape route and have a second exit in the event a fire is blocking the first one
- Remind tenants to keep escape routes and exits free of obstructions and not to prop open fire doors
- Make sure tenants don’t store combustible objects near boilers or fuse boxes
If you’re committed to protecting life and property, our comprehensive fire safety services can help.
Working with property developers, building firms and owners, we ensure that structures are well-equipped to prevent and minimise the risk of fire.
We believe safety is always a top priority.