It is a little known fact that people living in rented accommodation are much more likely to have a fire. So, it is essential for landlords to consider all the issues related to fire risks for their tenants, not only to be aware of the dangers but also to prevent them.
Fire Safety Tip # 1 – Install an appropriate fire safety system
Landlords in England should protect domestic premises in conjunction with the fire safety standard afforded by the LD system of standards. Category LD1 covers alarms in all circulation spaces that form part of escape routes and all areas where a fire might start but not bathrooms, shower rooms or toilets. Category LD2 refers to alarms in all circulation spaces that form part of escape routes and rooms or areas that present a high firs risk. Category LD3 is intended to protect escape routes for those not directly involved in the fire and may not save the life of anyone in the immediate vicinity of the fire.
Fire Safety Tip # 2 – Conduct a thorough fire risk assessment
Just like employers, landlords have certain legal obligations when it comes to fire safety and protection of their properties and the safety of people who reside in their premises. Legislation requires that landlords carry out fire risk assessments in all areas of their properties. This process will identify any fire hazards and who is at risk and decide if anything needs to be done to remove or reduce that risk. A fire risk assessment includes; Identify fire hazards; Identify people at risk; Evaluate, remove or reduce and protect them from risk; Instruct and train those at risk and importantly, Conduct regular risk reviews.
Fire Safety Tip # 3 – Understand which fire safety legislation applies to you
The fire safety regulations for rented properties are laid out in various Acts. These are the key laws that you should be aware of and must follow as a landlord:
- The Housing Act 2004, including the Housing Health & Safety Rating System (HHSRS)
- Furniture and Furnishings (Fire Safety) Regulations 1988/1989, 1993 and 2010
- The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005
- The Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarm (England) Regulations 2015
- Building Regulations
Fire Safety Tip # 4 – Maintain an up to date list of useful resources
Compile and keep up to date a list of useful local resources. These could include information on local fire and rescue services (FRS) links and GOV resources. The National Landlords Association have commissioned a Fire Risk Assessment Template – essential reading for all responsible landlords.
Fire Safety Tip # 5 – Test the fire alarms, doors and escape routes regularly
Private sector landlords will be required from 1 October 2015 to have at least one smoke alarm installed on every storey of their properties and a carbon monoxide alarm in any room containing a solid fuel burning appliance (e.g. a coal fire, wood burning stove). After that, the
landlord must make sure the alarms are in working order at the start of each new tenancy. All alarms that are fitted should be regularly maintained and tested to ensure they are working (this includes on a battery backup power supply for mains powered systems).
Ensure that all outside doors can be easily opened at all times from the inside. If you fit a mortice lock, make sure you install one with a thumb turn which can open from the inside. Having a spare key by the door is less satisfactory as it can get lost.
Make sure all passages and corridors (escape routes) are kept clear, i.e. do not have anything which can burn or clutter the escape route for residents leaving the premises in the event of a fire.
All doors that lead out onto the escape route (i.e. a front door of a flat in a block) are required to be a 30-minute fire door (FD30).
Some tenants need more help than others. The Equality Act was implemented in 2010 to ensure residents with a disability are not put under unfair disadvantage. Vulnerable tenants are defined as a person who is over the age of 18 but requires community care services.
Is there a smoking policy in your property? According to government statistics, smokers and their paraphernalia accounted for more than 6% of accidental dwelling fires in 2015/16. Landlords should consider implementing a smoking policy, alert tenants of the dangers or install smoking points with safe cigarette disposal spots outside of the property… or even better, prohibit smoking.
Ideally, this information should be shared with your tenant, making sure they are educated. Landlords can ask the local Fire and Rescue Services to a fire safety visit.
Landlords have a moral and legal responsibility when providing fire safety for tenants, so it is important to ensure all areas are covered in the home – both before and throughout the duration of a tenancy.