Fire Safety for Landlords
This post is about fire safety for landlords, what your responsibilities are as a landlord, and what you as a tenant should expect from your landlord.
Just the same as any employer, landlords have certain obligations when it comes to the fire safety and security of their properties and a duty to their tenants. However, it is not as simple as ensuring that there are a few fire extinguishers on site. Fire safety depends on the potential risks and the different types of buildings and this can create confusion. Also, the legislation requires that landlords carry out fire risk assessments in all areas of their properties.
The law now states that “Private sector landlords since 1st of October 2015 are now required to have at least one smoke alarm installed on every story of their properties, and a carbon monoxide alarm in any room containing a solid fuel burning appliance. For example, coal fires or wood burning stoves.” After that, the landlord must ensure that the fire alarms are in working order at the beginning of each new tenancy.
Fire safety is potentially even more important when in a building that is a mixed-used premises and where occupiers who live independently from one another have common areas. The legislation states, “This area of law is covered by the Housing Act 2004 and the Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarm England Regulations 2015, inside the dwelling and for the common areas, the Regulatory Reform Fire Safety Order 2005.”
As you now know, all landlords have legal obligations as required by fire safety. Again, legislation, at the very least, you should ensure that there are a suitable means of escape in case of fire. And landlords of shared and houses in multiple occupation, or HMO properties, will have additional obligations both under the Regulatory Reform Fire Safety Order 2005, Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarm England Regulations 2015, and the Housing Act 2004. All of this fire safety legislation creates an entity known as the “responsible person.” So if you are the owner, manager, agent, or even own a flat within a block, you will need to check if you are the responsible person. Additionally, if you’re a tenant in a residence, you should know who the responsible person is for your residency.
The responsible person has to act without a prompt or direction from any enforcement authority. As in health and safety legislation, ignorance is no defence for noncompliance. So make sure if you are a landlord or the responsible person, that you take appropriate measures to protect your tenants and yourself legally. If you fail to remain compliant, then a number of things can happen. At first, you may be sent an advice letter telling you ways in which you can and should improve the fire safety of your premises. This can be followed or replaced by a minor deficiencies letter that will outline what the issues are in the building, if they are of concerned enough to take some prompt action but not severe enough to require an action plan. Finally, an action plan can be implemented by the Fire and Rescue Authority. This can include an enforcement of prohibition notice. Failure to comply with any of these notices could lead to unlimited fines or even a prison sentence. You should never let the situation at your premises reach this kind of level. So make sure that you ensure you’re compliant before moving into premises or moving tenants into a site.
Good Housing Keeping – Fire Safety
Good housekeeping is essential to the reduction in the risk of fire for general fire safety. Good housekeeping may be a little dull, however, it is essential in terms of fire prevention and escaping in the event of a fire. Common sense can also save lives, so do not neglect it. Firstly, no matter how convenient it may be to stack boxes or any other items near an exit, you should never block a fire exit. Remember, in the event of a fire, this is your main method of escape, blocking it could slow you down or even prevent occupants from leaving the building during a fire, increasing the chances of injury or even death. You’d be surprised what we’ve seen stored in evacuation routes over the years. Prams, push chairs, ironing boards, all sorts of clutter.
Furthermore, ensuring that combustible substances are kept clear from sources of ignition is another simple way you can prevent the breakout or spread of a fire. For example, keep your cardboard recycling away from candles or heaters. Keeping spaces clear and tidy will also allow occupants to reach core points to sound the alarm in the event of a fire. This allows added warning to be given to others in the building about the presence of fire, allowing them an easier escape. Sensible electrical maintenance is also important. You should not overload plugs or leave wires hanging free. And poor electrical work or awareness can cause a fire to break out. Additionally, good housekeeping domestically encompasses the testing of your smoke detectors on a regular basis to ensure that they are fully functional. Smoke detectors save lives, and so it is vital these are properly checked.
Also, in commercial or public spaces, making sure that your fire alarm is serviced a minimum of bi-annually is not only a must, but a legal compliance to guarantee there are no issues with your system and that it will work as it should. Your extinguisher should also be serviced annually. These are one of the most important aids to escaping from a fire, so make sure they work correctly and are not at the end of their lifespan. This is all part of keeping a good house. Your emergency lights are also important items to be tested, as they can light your path to an escape route if a fire causes an electrical failure. Flash test these monthly and soak test the lights annually.
If you currently do not have a service contract for your fire alarm extinguishers, emergency lights, or any other fire safety equipment, make sure you get a comprehensive one as soon as possible to protect these life-saving assets and make sure you are legally compliant. Moreover, clear and appropriate signage is a must for any well-kept house. Correctly signing exits, call points, and extinguishers, etcetera, is a must to reduce confusion during the stressful event of a fire. Guiding individuals to safety is the most important aspect of fire management, so make sure you are covered.
To conclude, looking after your house and keeping all of your fire safety requirements in order is essential. These are small steps, but they add up to a life-saving plan that could prevent people from coming into harm’s way.