Being a landlord brings with it some serious obligations to ensure the safety of your tenants. These range from electrical safety to gas safety, regular maintenance and also fire safety. In this article we will take a look at landlord responsibilities as far as fire risk and safety are concerned. This will focus on the private rental sector and does not cover the extra complexities of Homes of Multiple Occupancy, shared flats or the social rented sector.
There is a raft of legislation under which various aspects of fire safety are covered and these are:
The Housing Act 2004 which defines the main fire safety requirements for properties being rented.
The Furniture and Furnishings (Fire Safety) Regulations 1988 (amended in 1989, 1993 and 2010) set the fire safety requirements for any furniture provided in rented accommodation.
The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Oder (2005) sets down fire safety requirements for shared communal areas such as flats or houses of multiple occupancy.
The Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarm (England) Regulations 2015, which set out the requirements for smoke and carbon monoxide detection in rented accommodation (this is being updated soon to increase requirements).
The Homes (Fit for Human Habitation) Act 2018 which require a property to be safe, healthy and free from faults. This legislation does not impose a heavier duty on a landlord, but does give the landlord better access to a property to carry out inspections and improvement works
So, what does this all really mean? Below we cover the main aspects of fire risk and safety in rented properties.
Smoke and Carbon Monoxide alarms
Legally a rented property needs one working smoke alarm on every floor of the property and must also have a carbon monoxide detector in any room where solid fuel such as wood or coal is burned. Landlords must ensure that all the detectors are working at the start of a tenancy. It is also advisable to check these detectors during the regular property inspections that are carried out.
Furniture and Furnishings
If a landlord supplies furniture such as sofas and beds or soft furnishings such as curtains, pillows or cushions, these must be made from fire resistant materials and must have a fire safety label attached to them and should comply with the legislation in terms of fire resistance.
Electrical and Gas Safety
Landlords are legally required to have their rental properties inspected at least every 5 years by a competent professional for electrical safety and have to supply an electrical safety certificate to their tenants. As part of this, a landlord should carry out PAT testing on any electrical appliances that they supply such as washing machines, televisions or microwaves. Although this is not a legal requirement, it is best practice. The law is a little more stringent for gas safety and there needs to be an annual inspection carried out on all gas appliances by a registered gas engineer.
Landlords should ensure that all emergency exit routes are kept clear at all times, whilst this is a matter for the tenants for the most part, landlords should take this into account during the periodic property inspections.
Every landlord should make sure that they are fully conversant with current regulations around fire safety in rented accommodation. No-one wants a fire in their property and the responsibility set upon a landlord to ensure that both their investment and more importantly, their tenant are protected from fire is not something to be taken lightly.