There have been several reports in the news lately about some quite shocking failures on the part of landlords when it comes to keeping their tenants safe – including these two who were fined £100k and £150k respectively.
While these cases were shocking, unfortunately they’re not unique. A minority of landlords show a staggering lack of regard for the safety of their tenants despite the fact that in virtually every instance they are the person responsible for ensuring fire safety. These responsibilities may vary but there’s no getting away from the fact that legally all landlords have fire safety obligations.
Thankfully most landlords do take their responsibilities seriously. But some can find it difficult to know exactly what’s required of them as there are several pieces of legislation which impact on fire safety.
Requirements vary depending on the type of property you’re renting out and the nature of the occupiers. For example, if you’re the landlord of a house or houses in multiple occupation (HMO), it’s more complex.
But some of the legislation is applicable to all and as a landlord, there are fire safety requirements you should be acting on no matter what kind of property you’re renting out. Here are some of the key things you should be taking into account.
Fire risk assessment
Doing a fire risk assessment is a fundamental part of your fire safety responsibilities. It systematically identifies the fire-related hazards in the premises as well as the associated level of risk. It helps you understand how those hazards could affect the building and its occupants and therefore lets you identify and implement suitable control measures to eliminate or at least reduce the risks.
There can be a lot to consider so it is worth considering using a fire safety professional for this stage, especially if you’ve got houses of multiple occupation or rent out several properties.
Carry out electrical and gas safety checks
Get all gas appliances and flues checked by a registered Gas Safe engineer every year and make sure all electrical systems and appliances that you provide are safe too. You should be able to show residents that checks have taken place so make sure you have relevant records and documentation.
Fit alarms at appropriate locations
In England the Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarm (England) Regulations 2015 apply. You must install a minimum of one smoke alarm on each storey of your property and install carbon monoxide alarms in any rooms that contain a solid fuel burning appliance. Similar principles also apply in Wales and Scotland.
Once they’re installed, test your alarms at the start of every tenancy to make sure they are in good working order. Remind your tenants they have a part to play too – they should be regularly testing the alarms to make sure they’re working.
Consider all other potential ignition risks
You must make sure any furnishings you provide in the property are fire resistant and meet safety regulations. You might want to consider introducing a smoking policy and it’s also worth thinking about the risk from arson. Is there anything you can do to help reduce that risk like making bins less accessible from the road?
What else should you think about?
And while every tenant should be aware of escape routes irrespective of the kind of building they’re living in, there are specific obligations on particular properties to ensure adequate means of escape if there was an emergency. You may need to put up signs showing exit routes in the event of fire along with the location of the nearest fire assembly point. Remember you need to make sure any non-English speaking residents are catered for too.
There is a lot to do but don’t risk inadvertently neglecting fire safety measures. Unless you’re renting out the simplest types of properties, this is one situation where it’s well worth taking expert advice. If you’d benefit from specific guidance about which legislation applies to you and exactly what you need to do to make sure you’re fulfilling all your responsibilities as a landlord, please do get in touch with us.