Did you know that people who live in rented or shared accommodation are seven times more likely to have a fire? That’s why it’s vital for landlords to not just be aware of the dangers, but to actively prevent them.
This blog will outline eight fire safety tips for private and social landlords to ensure tenant safety in rented accommodation. It is the latest in our series of landlord resources for fire safety, geared at helping, guiding and advising landlords on fire safety best practice.
Fire Safety Tip1: Know which fire safety legislation applies to you
Fire safety regulation is largely contingent on the type of property being rented as well as its location within the UK. Landlords should consult our short guides to the Housing Act 2004, the Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarm (England) Regulations 2015 (which addresses what alarms are needed inside dwellings and common areas) in addition to the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005. Meanwhile, Fire Building Regulations draw on a number of different documents and require varying levels of protection.
Fire Safety Tip 2: Have a list of useful resources
Landlords should always aim to be proactive, rather than reactive, when it comes to providing fire safety in rental accommodation. One of the best ways to ensure you have covered all areas, is to compile a list of resources to refer to.
For instance, the Local Authorities Coordinators of Regulatory Services (LACORS) provides national guidance for fire safety for different kinds of houses and flats, as well as legal responsibilities for landlords. BS 5839-6 is a vital resource for fire detection in domestic premises, as it summaries the code of practice for the design, installation, commission and maintenance of fire detection and alarm systems. For more useful fire safety resources, please see our Landlord Resources or Social Housing Toolkit. Alternatively, you can download our fire safety checklist for landlords to ensure you have covered all the essential areas:
Fire Safety Tip 3: Conduct a thorough fire risk assessment
Landlords should also have a thorough understanding of the Fire Safety Order, which stipulates that there must be a listed ‘responsible person’ who complies with legislation and conducts fire risk assessments. As outlined in the FSO, when there is no employer, the responsible person is the person who has control of the premises - so for rental accommodation this tends to be the landlord.
Whilst it is recommended to follow the fire risk assessment template provided by Gov.uk, landlords should also be conscious of where their duties overlap with the local housing authority under the Housing Act 2004, and the local fire and rescue service, as per the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005. As a consequence, there are two types of risk assessments for landlords to consider - and LACORS is a great resource addressing this. Please see our Fire safety standards and regulations for existing social housing for more information.
Fire Safety Tip 4: Installing an appropriate fire safety system
Knowing what alarms are legally required and where can be confusing. However, landlords in England at the very least should protect domestic premises in conjunction with the fire safety standard afforded by a Category LD3 system.
They should be familiar with available anti-fire products as well as which are best suited to the accommodation and tenant. Finally, landlords should consider installing fire doors, fire blankets and extinguishers. A concise account of the Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarm Regulations for England can be found here.
Fire Safety Tip 5: Testing Fire Alarms
Fire alarm installation isn’t the end of the story. As landlords have a moral and legal responsibility, it is imperative that alarms are checked at the beginning of each tenancy and that these alarms align with British standards. Landlords should also make their tenants aware of their responsibility of checking alarms once a week and cleaning them every three months.
Fire Safety Tip 6: Protecting vulnerable tenants
Some tenants need more help than others. The Equality Act was implemented in 2010 to ensure residents with a disability are not put under unfair disadvantage. Vulnerable tenants are defined as a person who is over the age of 18 but requires community care services – a full explanation can be found here.
There are a range of fire safety measures that can be installed – like interlinked alarms or stove guards – depending on the circumstances. For instance, landlords can find our guide to protecting tenants with dementia here.
Fire Safety Tip 7: Is there a smoking policy in your property?
According to government statistics, smokers and their paraphernalia accounted for more than 6% of accidental dwelling fires in 2015/16. Landlords should consider implementing a smoking policy, alert tenants of the dangers or install smoking points with safe cigarette disposal spots outside of the property.
Fire Safety Tip 8: Know how to educate your tenants
Landlords should go further by taking the incentive and effectively sharing this information with tenants. For example:
- Do they know what to do in the event of fire? E.g. Exit routes and assembly points (Which need to be kept clear at all times).
- Do they know the fire hazards in their home? Over 50% of accidental domestic fires were the result of cooking and 36% were caused by misused electrical items.
Include the likes of our kitchen fire safety eBook or handbooks alongside the inventory when a tenant first moves in, and landlords can immediately arm them with all the information they need. Signs and instructions in various languages are also effective.
Alternatively, landlords can ask the local Fire and Rescue Service to hold a Safe and Well visit. These are local-authority dependant, but aim to educate tenants about fires as well as general well-being.
Landlords have a moral and legal responsibility when providing fire safety for tenants, so it is important to ensure all areas are covered in the home - both before and throughout the duration of a tenancy. For more fire safety tips/fire safety resources for landlords, please see our Landlord Resources blog,fire safety legislation and regulations page or Social Housing Toolkit.