Landlord guide to fire safety
Fires in the UK killed 322 people in the year leading up to March 2014, and most of these fatal fires occurred in the home. With this is mind, landlords have a huge role to play when it comes to fire safety. Unless you’re letting an HMO, there aren’t too many specific obligations when it comes to fire safety. However, all landlords are under what’s called a ‘common law’ duty to ensure that the property they provide is safe and complies with building regulations. When it comes to the safety of your tenants, it’s always best to err on the side of caution.
If you’re letting an HMO, you’ll have additional responsibilities when it comes to fire safety. Check out this page from the Fire Safety Advice Centre
By law, you must:
- Follow fire safety regulations e.g. ensure your tenants have access to escape routes at all times
- Ensure all furniture and furnishings you supply with the tenancy are fire safe
- Provide fire alarms and extinguishers (only legally required if your property is an HMO i.e. House in Multiple Occupation)
Following fire safety regulations
What fire safety regulations?
The “fire safety regulations” referred to here are the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order (FSO). This covers general fire safety in England and Wales – not just for landlords, but all “responsible persons”.
Who counts as a “responsible person”?
The FSO (Fire Safety Order) creates a legal entity known as “the responsible person”. That could be a building manager, an employer, or in privately rented accommodation – you guessed it – you, the landlord.
Does the Fire Safety Order apply to me?
It depends on the type of property you’re letting. If you’re letting out a single house to a single family, for example, then it won’t apply to you. However, the FSO would apply if you’re letting an entire block of flats, or an HMO (House in Multiple Occupation).
Check out the RLA’s excellent table to see if your property requires you to follow the Fire Safety Order regulations
If the FSO does apply to your property, we suggest you check out this page from The Health and Safety Executive (HSE)
Fire-safe furniture and furnishings
What does “fire safe” mean?
Upholstered furniture and furnishings are “fire safe” when they comply with all fire resistance requirements laid out in the Furniture & Furnishings (Fire) (Safety) Regulations 1988. The most common tests are the “match test” and the “cigarette test” – which is why lots of labels will feature black symbols of lit cigarettes and matches.
How can I tell if my furniture is fire safe?
If you bought the furniture from a reputable trader after 1988, then it should be fire safe. To check, you should look for the “permanent” label, which should be stitched on somewhere out of sight.
What will the label look like?
Manufacturers can choose to put on permanent labels in long form or short form.
Should all my furniture have one of these labels?
Any furniture you supply with your rental property should have one of these permanent labels with the exception of:
- Bed bases
The labelling specifications for these types of furniture are covered separately by the BS 7177 e.g.
What if I can’t find the label?
If you can’t find a label, then there is sadly no way of you telling whether or not it is fire safe. So you should replace it (better to stay on the safe side).
If you bought the furniture recently, you should find the receipt and contact the trader and complain that the furniture isn’t fit for purpose under the Sale of Goods Act and ask for a refund/exchange
To get fire safe furniture delivered and installed for incredibly competitive prices, check out easyProperty furniture
Alarms and extinguishers
Am I legally required to provide fire extinguishers?
If you’re letting a single occupation tenanted property (as opposed to an HMO, for example) then there is no legal requirement to provide extinguishers. However, it is highly advisable and is evidence that you are following your common law duty to ensure the property you let is safe.
If you do provide extinguishers, you must arrange for them to be serviced regularly – every 12 months will be fine
Am I legally required to provide fire/smoke alarms?
It depends. The building regulations (which you must adhere to) require all properties built after June 1992 to have mains operated inter-connected smoke alarms fitted on all levels of the property.
For older properties, there is currently no specific legal requirement for landlords to provide fire/smoke alarms – unless the property is an HMO. However, it is strongly advised that you do supply at least battery operated smoke alarms in the property.
From the 1st October 2015, regulations will require both smoke alarms and carbon monoxide alarms to be installed in rented residential accommodation.
If you supply battery operated alarms, make sure your tenancy agreement makes it clear that it is your tenants’ responsibility to regularly test to check the alarms are working and replace the batteries as necessary. However, it’s also a good idea to check these yourself during your quarterly inspections of the property.
Most of the information in this guide was sourced from the Fire Safety Advice Centre. Where another source was used, we have provided a link. To find out about your other obligations as a landlord, check out our landlord obligations checklist.
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