Whilst the implementation of fire safety in private rental accommodation is a primary objective of the landlord, it is vital that tenants are also aware of their landlord’s responsibilities, as well as their own.
The following blog post aims to provide a broad guide for tenants to use in order to ensure there is an adequate level of fire safety in their rented accommodation, with a selection of resources and guides to refer to.
If you are about to move into a new rented accommodation, or have recently moved in, there are a variety of things your landlord will have done prior to your arrival. The majority of these can be seen in our checklist for landlords before a tenant moves in blog post. However, the key fire safety measures to be aware of/questions you need to be asking include the following:
Do You Know Your Landlord’s Legal Obligations?
Your private landlord’s legal obligations will orientate around your safety, so it is fundamental that they abide by them. You can find a summary of private landlords legal fire safety legislations in our Step Up Booklet.
You can also find a simplified version in the second half of the Fire Safety In The Kitchen eBook.
Primarily your private landlord’s legal fire safety obligations fall under the Housing Act, which require there to be "sufficient properly designed and appropriately sited smoke and/or heat detectors with alarms in every dwelling". Private landlords also need to ensure, under the Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarm Regulations 2015, that there is at least one smoke detector on every floor of the property, with a CO alarm in any room that contains a solid fuel burning appliance such as a coal burning fire or wood burning stove. Failing to abide by this is not only dangerous to tenants, but is prosecutable to a £5,000 fine.
Are you aware of the top hazards in the home?
As highlighted in the Fire Safety In The Kitchen eBook above (and table below), over 60% of domestic fires start in the kitchen. However, it is also important to note that smokers’ materials include 36% of all ignitions that lead to fatalities.
Even if you believe you are fire safe, it can be difficult to consider all the fire hazards in the home. They range from electrical appliances to the presence of flammable oils, naked flames, and other heat sources in the kitchen, and you also likely share your rented accommodation with other tenants.
We would therefore recommend downloading the [Fire Safety In The Kitchen eBook], to ensure both you and other tenants are aware of the fire hazards in your home, and know how best to reduce the likelihood of fire.
Are Your Fire And CO Alarms Fitted And Working Properly?
The landlord must test the alarms at the beginning of every tenancy, but hereafter it is normally the tenant’s responsibility to ensure that continue to remain in working order and, if need be, change the batteries. It is also advisable that alarms are cleaned once every 3 months with a hoover fitted with a soft headed brush. In the event of a nuisance alarm/ false alarm it is important tenants do not tamper with it, e.g. by removing the battery or by removing the alarm itself. This could endanger your life, as well as the other tenants present. Therefore, in the event of a false alarm, it is important you contact your landlord. For more information, see our How To Improve Tenant Safety By Reducing Nuisance Alarms blog post.
For a brief overview of where alarms should be installed in your home, replacing batteries, testing and cleaning, low battery chirps and what to do in the event of fire, you can see FireAngel’s quick user guides here:
It is also vital you know your fire alarm expiry date. Please see our 10 year - check the date page for more information.
Do you know what to do when an alarm sounds?
Unless it is absolutely clear that it is a false alarm, every fire alarm or carbon monoxide (or gas alarm, if present) sounding should be taken as a serious event.
As a tenant, you should work closely with the landlord to ensure you know about the fire safety system in your rented accommodation, and know what to do and where to go when an alarm sounds. For instance, if your landlord has installed an interlinking system, all the alarms, smoke, heat and carbon monoxide if installed, will sound simultaneously if one detects a problem. They will also mimic the sound pattern of the originating alarm, so it is important to know what each one sounds like, and what action you should take.
Smoke alarm/ heat alarm
Alert all the tenants, evacuate using pre-planned escape route, and call the Fire and Rescue Service (and landlord) once you are safely outside. Please see our what to do in the event of fire blog post for more information.
Carbon monoxide alarm
Carbon monoxide is toxic gas that can be produced in the home when an appliance fails to burn fuel completely. So, in the event of a CO alarm tenants should open all windows and doors, evacuate, then contact your local registered gas engineer (and landlord). For more information about the dangers of carbon monoxide, see our Project SHOUT interview here.
Low battery chirp
Contact the landlord if it’s an alarm with a sealed for life battery or if it’s not replace the batteries yourself
Are you a vulnerable tenant?
Vulnerable tenants are at greater risk of dying in a fire, so it is paramount that your landlord considers this when conducting a fire risk assessment of your property, providing fire detection systems and escape routes suitable for the individual.
Vulnerable tenants may include children, elderly tenants, disabled tenants, or those living with an illness such as dementia . Furthermore, as highlighted in Staffordshire’s Fire And Rescue Service SAME Campaign, smokers and those under the influence of alcohol are also at particular risk. For more information on the products available for vulnerable tenants, such as gas detectors, interlinking alarms, stove guards, low-frequency sounders and vibrating pads, please see our Fire Safety Measures For Adults At Risk blog.
Landlords are susceptible to prosecution if they do not ensure you are fire safe in your rented accommodation. However, it is important you don’t just presume you and other family members/tenants are safe, you need to know you are safe!
Primarily, this includes knowing what you and your landlord are responsible for, from gas safety checks to testing fire alarms; you can do this by downloading our free fire safety checklist here.
We also have a free eBook covering what to do in the event of fire for different properties, including a child-friendly section to colour in, and fire evacuation for tenants with a disability. You can get your copy here.