Fires can cause devastating damage to a property, leaving it uninhabitable within moments and requiring extensive repairs that reduce rental revenue. Furthermore, a fire poses a substantial threat to the safety of your tenants. Renters and tenants who live in shared or rented accommodation are seven times more likely to experience a fire, according to Firemark.
Be vigilant regarding fire safety throughout the year, especially as the holiday season approaches. The increased use of heating and electrical appliances causes house fires every year. The intake of alcohol in combination with decorative items such as Christmas trees, fairy lights, and ornaments may also contribute to this problem.
Keeping your rental property safe is one of your legal obligations as a landlord. Legal action may follow if a fire occurs and no fire-safe arrangements exist. Fire safety is of utmost importance for landlords.
This article discusses the primary causes of fire, steps to reduce the likelihood of a fire, and the essential fire safety regulations that every landlord should be familiar with.
A variety of factors can cause property fires. In addition to candles, unattended or faulty appliances, the use of extension leads too frequently, cigarettes, and deep fat fryers, firefighting companies have received claims for fires caused by various factors. Fires caused by arson and electrical faults are the most commonly reported causes of fire claims.
While the number of fires in dwellings has decreased steadily over the years, fire incident statistics indicate that, in England alone, firefighters had to respond to 29,570 fires in dwellings in 2018-19. Most of these accidents have resulted from incorrect use of machinery or malfunctioning appliances.
Fires occur, but whether you are a landlord or tenant, you can take practical measures to prevent them. In this section, we aim to explain landlords’ legal responsibilities regarding fire risk reduction, so read it till the end.
Working smoke alarms save lives in fire-related incidents. It has been reported that gas leakage and smoke is the main cause of death in fire accidents. In any room containing a solid fuel-burning appliance, landlords are legally required to install at least one working smoke alarm.
At the outset of each new tenancy, landlords must ensure the alarms are in good working order, and tenants should be encouraged to perform a monthly inspection of the alarms. During routine property inspections, smoke and carbon monoxide alarms should also be checked.
The London Fire Brigade advises that individuals install a temperature detector in their kitchens and smoke alarms in the lounges and hallways of their homes in addition to the legal requirements. Landlords can obtain a useful booklet from GOV.UK regarding the installation of smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors.
Legally, landlords are accountable for ensuring tenants have a means of escaping that is secure and safe; you may also call it an emergency exit. An emergency exit may be external, such as a staircase mounted on the side of the building, or inside.
To use escape routes during a fire, escape routes must be equipped with emergency lighting, fire-resistant flooring and walls. To ensure tenants can exit the property quickly in an emergency, emergency exits should also be accessible on every floor and in every property room.
HMOs are subject to more restrictive regulations due to their size and difficulty in leaving them. A person with extensive training and experience in fire risk assessment should be consulted for more complex rental properties.
In large HMOs, however, fire extinguishers are mandatory, but you may want to go above and beyond what is required by law wherever possible, so you may want to provide one regardless of the type of housing. Each building floor should have a fire extinguisher, while each kitchen should have a fire blanket.
The extinguishers should also be checked periodically during the inspection, as they should be at the beginning of each tenancy. Fire extinguishers and blankets should be explained to tenants when and how to use them. Only use extinguishers to put out fires they were intended to handle.
Many rental properties must conduct periodic fire risk assessments, which is a best practice in all cases. It is their responsibility to identify potential causes of fires, highlight the risks, and advise the landlord on minimizing the possibility of a fire.
Ideally, the risk assessment should be reviewed and updated every two years. Those older buildings or exceeding three stories should have their risk assessments evaluated every year and revised thrice yearly.
In their ‘Safe and Well’ initiative, most fire departments offer free home visits to identify potential fire risks in the home, even though fire risk assessment is not mandatory. Among these activities are knowing what to do in the event of a fire, ensuring the presence of functional smoke alarms, and creating an escape plan in the event of a fire.
The law requires landlords to have a Gas Safe registered engineer install and maintain all gas equipment they supply and have annual Gas safety certs on all appliances and flues. As part of the gas safety check process, landlords must provide tenants with a copy of the record before they move into the rental property or within 28 days following the check.
Certificates must be renewed every year under legal requirements. It is important to note that gas safety is not just a matter of compliance with the law, it is also about ensuring the wellbeing of tenants. A gas leak can cause a fire or explosion because it is volatile and highly flammable. Carbon monoxide, another poisonous and deadly gas, will also be tested during a gas safety inspection.
HMOs already have restrictions surrounding the areas where tenants are permitted to smoke, such as shared areas. The landlord may include a provision in the rental agreement that specifies that smoking is prohibited in the rental property, although smoking is not illegal in rental properties. Smoking is a significant contributing factor to house fires that occur accidentally. As a result of banning smoking indoors, floors, carpets, and surfaces are less likely to suffer burn injuries.
Landlords should also monitor electric appliances, ensure they are safe, and display the necessary labels and markings. Unless electrical appliances are provided on the property, portable appliance testing (PAT) is not mandatory, but it is recommended. It’s worth paying particular attention to appliances in the kitchen, like cookware and white goods, because they tend to cause the most accidental domestic fires in the UK.
When working on larger properties such as HMOs, where there are possibly more electrical appliances, it is advisable to employ a licensed PAT specialist.
Fire safety in rental properties is not just a legal obligation for landlords; it’s a moral responsibility to ensure the well-being of tenants and protect valuable assets. Adhering to fire regulations, conducting regular inspections, and providing adequate safety measures can prevent fire incidents and save lives.
As a landlord, we hope you find this article helpful if you search for fire safety methods for your buildings and home.