As a residential landlord, you have legal responsibilities when implementing fire safety in residential accommodation. Whether it is gas appliance checks or smoke alarm installation, these areas will affect those working in estate agencies and the property management sector alongside the tenants living in the home.
In a residential property, a high standard of safety management is essential. Leasing or renting a property carries risks and obligations, so a good property risk management should be embedded within any organisation.
This checklist aims to provide a detailed overview of gas and fire safety in rental accommodation, however it is important to note that this piece should be interpreted as a generic guidance, and official documentation linked throughout should be used as the authoritative reference.
Have you fully assessed the fire risks and hazards?
Assessment of health, safety and environmental risks covers a range of areas.
Hazard + Likelihood = Risk
As stipulated in many UK health and safety regulations, there is a requirement to appoint and identify a ‘responsible person’ in an organisation under the Fire Safety Order. He or she will ensure that fire safety management systems are in place and actively operational.
As outlined in RICS ‘Health and safety for residential property managers’, some simple guidance for both fire and gas risk assessments are as follows:
- Identify the hazards
- Decide who might be harmed and how
- Evaluate the risks and decide on precautions
- Record your findings and implement them
- Review your assessment and update if necessary
For more information: See Fire safety risk assessment: sleeping accommodation, published by the UK government.
What fire safety regulation applies to your property?
In residential housing, fire safety regulation is split between two separate regulatory bodies: the Fire and Rescue Service authority and the local housing authority (LACORS).
- The FRS are responsible (under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005) for enforcing fire safety in common areas of Houses of Multiple Occupation, flats and maisonettes.
- The local housing authority is responsible (under the Housing Act 2004) for fire safety in individual dwellings in its area.
However, the Housing Act 2004 also covers common areas of the building, overlapping with the Fire Safety Order 2005 which can cause some confusion. It is therefore recommended to consult the LACORS guidance, which sets out which authority should take the lead in different types of residential property.
The Housing Act is also significant in stipulating a risk assessment system called the Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS), which evaluates any potential hazards in a home.
Within England, The Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarm (England) Regulations 2015 and Fire Safety Building Regulations: Approved Document B are the key provisions. However, regulations vary throughout the UK. In light of this, it is recommended to follow British Standard BS 5839-6:2013, which is a set of specific recommendations for fire alarm systems for all dwellings.
For a more detailed review of what legislation applies to you, see our Making legislation simple for landlords blog post, or download our Step Up Landlord resources below:
Are there adults at risk/vulnerable tenants in the property?
A vulnerable tenant is defined in BS 5839-6 as:
“A person aged 18 or over who is, or may be, in need of community care services by reason of mental or other disability, age or illness, and who is or may be unable to take care of himself or herself against significant harm or exploitation.”
Under the Equality Act 2010, housing providers have a responsibility not to place vulnerable tenants under any kind of unfair disadvantage.
This is important when it comes to fire safety because there are specific measures that you can put in place to protect the needs of vulnerable persons. For instance, if occupants are hard of hearing, strobes and vibrating pads can be used to alert persons to a fire, or low frequency sounders which are better than traditional alarms at waking up children and the elderly. If a tenant has mobility issues then specific consideration must be given to safe means of escape in the event of a fire.
For more information on how you can protect vulnerable tenants, please see our Fire Safety Measures for Adults at Risk blog post.
Is there a gas appliance in your property?
One of the most significant issues in this checklist, other than fire safety, is the management of gas appliances (e.g. cookers, heaters or gas fires in a hearth) within the residential accommodation.
As a general rule, if these are supplied by the landlord as part of the lease and/or were installed before the current lease/agreement, then the responsibility for testing and maintenance will remain with the residential landlord. However, if the lease/agreement specifically places this responsibility on the occupants, then the responsibility remains with them.
Gas appliance integrity is important to all occupiers because of the potential for carbon monoxide poisoning or explosion from gas leakage. The owner must therefore make sure all gas appliances are identified and appropriately tested annually (FireAngel would advise landlords to coincide testing of smoke and carbon monoxide alarms with the annual gas safety checks).
For many people, the dangers of carbon monoxide are unknown, but exposure to the gas causes 50 deaths a year and up to 40,000 medical visits in the UK. Campaigns such as Project SHOUT are working to bring awareness to this issue, and you can make sure that you know the fundamental requirements in our blog about carbon monoxide regulations.
Is there a combustible gas alarm in the property?
As seen in research by Brown University, sound is often sufficient to disrupt sleep, whereas smells/scents are not. In the event of a gas leak in the premises, it is therefore unlikely a tenant will be woken without the help of a gas detector. Furthermore, as our ability to smell diminishes with age, elderly tenants are less able to detect the presence of gas in the home. This makes them particularly vulnerable to gas leaks, especially if they are living with an illness such as dementia, which may make them more liable to forget about leaving a gas appliance on.
As a residential landlord it is your responsibility to make sure that gas appliances in the property are safe and regularly checked, in addition to assessing whether installing a gas detector would be appropriate for the tenant/property at hand.
Has the property’s electrical system been tested?
The Electrical Equipment (Safety) Regulations 1994 are the requirements needed to ensure electrical equipment is safe to use in rental accommodation, e.g. appliances must carry the British Safety Standard sign.
According to Fire Statistics England, the most common causes of accidental fires in the home between 2014/15 were 50% cooking appliances, 36% by misuse of appliance equipment and 16% as a result of faulty appliances and leads. Within this, the two main electrical groups to consider are fixed wiring (i.e. the mains supply around the property) and small portable electrical equipment (e.g. kettles, fridges, freezers, lamps and televisions).
Other things to consider for more general health and safety are: protecting against slips, trips, falls and security and CCTV. For more information, see Health and safety for residential property managers.
What is the best to communicate with your tenant/landlord/letting agency?
Of all points outlined in this gas and fire safety checklist, good communication between tenants, landlords and letting agencies can occasionally be overlooked. However, it is vital that all parties have a clear and concise understanding of gas and fire safety in the premises - and tenants are aware of hazards and how best to mitigate them. Please see our How To Educate Tenants On Fire Safety blog post for more information, or download our fire safety in the kitchen eBook, which can be used as a reference for residential landlords as well as a handout for tenants.
Good gas and fire safety management is about applying appropriate and proportionate controls for risk and injury in a way that complements business and ensures legal compliance. For this to work, the requirements need to be clear, well communicated and correctly implemented. It is the property owner’s duty to make sure this happens.
The owner must also be aware of:
- Recent case law and changes to health and safety guidance
- Do you have access to competent advice which can assist in compliance matters?
Want to ensure you have implemented a high level of fire safety in your premises, and ensure your dwelling is compliant with legislation? We’d recommend downloading our fire safety checklist for landlords here: