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Fire Safety

Fire Safety Regulations in Rental Property

Following the Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarm (England) Regulations 2015 which came into force on the 1st October 2015 all rental properties are covered by specific regulations concerning smoke and CO alarms.

HMO (House in Multiple Occupation) have additional safety and fire regulations to follow with the Fire Safety Order 2005  requiring landlord to perform certain duties including a Risk Assessment on their HMO in respect to fire safety.

Do landlords need to fit a smoke alarm in a rental property?

The Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarm (England) Regulations 2015 from the 1st October 2015 made it a requirement that landlords provide a smoke alarm on each story of their rental property and in certain circumstances, Carbon Monoxide Alarms are a mandatory requirement.

What are the smoke and carbon monoxide alarm requirements?

A rental property requires a minimum of one smoke alarm per floor, alongside this landlords and agents are required to have a Carbon Monoxide monitor in any living area where a fuel burning appliance is located.

The legislation defines the required duty of a landlord as  –

  1. 7.6  These Regulations place duties on a “relevant landlord” of a “specified tenancy” of residential premises in England to ensure:1. a smoke alarm is equipped on each story of the premises which is wholly or partly used as living accommodation;2. a carbon monoxide alarm is equipped in any room which is used wholly or partly as living accommodation and contains a solid fuel burning combustion appliance; and3. the smoke and carbon monoxide alarms are in proper working order at the start of any new tenancy.

What happens if Iandlords don’t comply?

If a landlord fails to comply with the new regulations they could face a fine of up to £5,000; which falls to the local authority (Local Council) to enforce.  Needless to say the chances of getting a random visit from your friendly neighbourhood Housing Officer is going to be low, given how overstretched they already are, however, a malicious tenant may drop you in it if you have inadvertently overlooked this new piece of legislation.  My advice if you haven’t already make sure you meet the requirements before the deadline.

As with all these regulations (well meaning as they often are) the complication comes in the detail and enforcability of the legislation.  For instance, what happens where a tenant disconnects or takes out the batteries in the new fire alarm? Is it really the landlords’ responsibility to ensure that the property is regularly inspected to ensure that the fire alarm is working or has not been disconnected, and if so, how often should a landlord inspect the fire or carbon monoxide alarm and does a landlord have to ensure that their letting agent does the same.  You can just see it becoming a ‘lawyers charter’ should a tenant misuse this new obligation by deliberately sabotaging the alarm and then informing on their landlord.

The sensible bit of the legislation that I can see is that there is an appeal facility under the regulation that will allow a landlord to appeal against any fine served on them by the local housing authority.  The full appeal procedure against a penalty notice for not having a fire alarm can be found by following the link.

What type of smoke alarm should I install?

The legislation is not prescriptive about what type of fire alarm or carbon monoxide alarm needs to be fitted.  Prior to the new regulations properties built before 1992 landlords were allowed to install battery operated alarms.  Residential buildings built or refurbished after 1992 were required to have a main wired smoke alarm.  Smoke alarms can be brought online from as little as £6.50.  I’m no expert on them so you could start by having a look at the Which guide to smoke alarms to find the best option.

Which has also tested carbon monoxide detectors

Why has the fire alarm legislation been brought in?

This legislation has been brought in by the Government to save lives.  The government estimates that the enforcement of the legislation will save 26 deaths and 670 injuries a year.

A Government publication claims that in 1988 just 8% of properties had fire alarms, now the figure has risen to nearer 90%.  People are 4 times more likely to die in a fire in the home if there is not a fire alarm.

Cynics might argue that the legislation was launched in the heat of the 2015 General Election as a way of the Tories showing that they were on the side of ‘Generation Rent’ and weren’t entirely in the pocket of landlords.

Property Hawk along with any responsible landlord supports steps that save lives.  Our gripe as always is that landlords and rental properties seem to have been targeted over owner-occupiers.  Is this fair or just? As always your thoughts and comments are welcomed.

All properties built after June 1992 are required by the Building Regulations to have a mains operated inter-connected smoke alarm fitted on every floor.

The exception to this rule is if a rental property is classified as a House In Multiple Occupation (HMO).
These properties are required by law to have a mains wired fire alarm.  The reason for this is that HMOs are more dangerous for their tenants.  Statistically occupants are 6 times more likely to die in a fire than those living in a single family house.

The type of fire alarm system to be installed in the HMO will depend on the property and the risk assessment carried out by the landlord.  The fire alarm and detection system should accord with British Standard 5839: part 6.  The specifies and grades fire detection and alarm systems for residential properties.

Who is responsible for testing and maintaining the fire alarms?

Landlords need to include a document possibly in their tenancy pack with the clear instruction that tenants need to test and be responsible for the replacement of any batteries required by the fire alarm. This instruction sheet should be included alongside the copy of the tenancy agreement, the property inventory and any appliance operating instructions, or emergency procedures information as part as a moving in pack given to tenants.

It is important for landlords have it determined who is responsible for the testing and maintaining the smoke alarms, whether the landlord, letting agent or tenant. If the letting agent is to be responsible, this should be noted in the management contract. If the tenant is to be made responsible for this then, adequate warnings must be given in writing by the landlord.

Fire Extinguishers in a Rental Property

There is no compulsory requirement for landlords to provide fire extinguishers or fire blankets in normal tenanted properties, but again, this may be a wise precaution by landlords, at least in the kitchen area.

If a landlord does make the commitment to provide fire extinguishers to a rental property, they need to be aware that they should arrange for a 12 monthly service of the equipment to make sure that they are not held responsible for any faults in the equipment. By providing a fire extinguisher it becomes their responsibility to have it regularly serviced.

Regulations on furniture in a rental property

Regulations on fire safety do apply to any furniture and furnishings in a rental property .

Landlords are always advised to discuss any concerns they might have regards the fire safety of a rental property with their local fire prevention officer, making sure they follow any advice given.

More on safety regulations in a rental property

General safety in a rental property

Electric safety in a rental property

Gas safety in a rental property

Furniture regulations in a rental property

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