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For Landlords: Fire Safety



According to the NRLA's research (https://www.nrla.org.uk/news/the-complete-fire-safety-guide-for-landlords), a fire in your property can cause devastating damage, leaving your home uninhabitable in a matter of minutes, and result in costly, time-consuming repairs which result in loss of rental income. More importantly, a fire poses a significant risk to your tenants’ safety. In fact, the risks of experiencing a fire are seven times higher for people who live in rented or shared accommodation.


With the festive seasons coming soon, firefighters warn of a spike in house fires due to the increased use of heating and electrical appliances, the danger increasing with the use of Christmas trees, fairy lights and decorations alongside the unawareness that comes with the excessive consumption of alcohol.


As a landlord, there are several legal obligations you need to comply with to make sure your rental property is safe. If 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.


CAUSES OF FIRE

  • Candles / Leaving candles unattended

  • Faulty or unattended appliances

  • Overuse of extension leads

  • Cigarettes / Throwing away still lit up cigarettes around flammable material

  • Deep fat fryers

  • Portable heaters

  • Misuse of equipment or apparatus

  • Faulty appliances


HOW TO REDUCE THE RISKS


It is incredibly important for landlords to follow the specific fire safety regulations for private rental properties. Landlords are legally required to take several safety precautions to protect their property and their tenants. As a bare minimum landlord must:

  • Provide a smoke alarm on each story and a carbon monoxide alarm in any room with a solid fuel burning appliance (for example a coal fire or wood-burning or fuel-burning stove).

  • Always check to see if the tennant/tennats has/have access to the building's fire exit.

  • Make sure the furniture and furnishings supplies are fire-safe and away from any fire producing source.

1. Smoke and carbon monoxide alarms


Landlords are required by law to have at least one working smoke alarm installed on every floor of their rental properties and a carbon monoxide alarm in any room containing a solid fuel burning appliance. Landlords must also make sure alarms are in working order at the start of each new tenancy and should encourage tenants to continue to check alarms monthly. It’s also a good idea to inspect smoke and carbon monoxide alarms when carrying out routine property inspections.

GOV.UK provides a useful booklet on smoke and carbon monoxide alarms for landlords.


2. Access to escape routes


Landlords are legally responsible for making sure tenants always have access to a safe and reliable escape route. 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.


3. 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.


4. Electrical safety inspection


Landlords are responsible for making sure that electrical wiring, sockets, and fuse boxes are safe throughout the tenancy. These regulations require landlords to have the electrical installations in their properties inspected and tested by a person who is qualified and competent, at least every five years. Landlords must provide a copy of the electrical safety report to their tenants, and to their local authority if requested.

The regulations came into force for new tenancies on 1 June 2020 and will apply to existing tenancies from 1 April 2021. While these measures are primarily designed to protect tenants, improvements to electrical safety should also lead to a reduction in electrical fire risk for landlords.


8. Portable appliance testing


Landlords should also check that any electrical appliances provided are in safe working order and have a British or European safety mark. Portable appliance testing (PAT) isn’t compulsory, but it is recommended if electrical appliances of any kind are provided in the rental property. Many accidental domestic fires in the UK are caused by electricity and most of these by electrical products, often in the kitchen, for example by cooking appliances and white goods, so it’s worth paying particular attention to these.

It’s also important that landlords warn tenants about the hazards of using extension leads to overload sockets and that sufficient sockets are provided in each room to prevent this from happening.


9. Gas safety check


Landlords are required by law to make sure any gas equipment they supply is safely installed and maintained by a Gas Safe registered engineer and that they have a registered engineer do an annual gas safety check on each appliance and flue. Landlords must also provide their tenants with a copy of the gas safety check record before they move in, or within 28 days of the check. This is a legal requirement, and each individual certificate must be renewed every year. Gas safety isn’t just about complying with the law, it’s ultimately about tenant safety. Gas is volatile and highly flammable, and if it leaks, it can cause an explosion or fire. Gas safety checks will also check for the presence of carbon monoxide, which is poisonous and can be deadly.


10. Banning smoking indoors


A significant proportion of accidental house fires are caused by cigarettes. Banning smoking indoors also reduces the likelihood of burns to floors, carpets, and surfaces.


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