Fire Safety, Maintenance

Fire Risk Assessment

Helping landlords ensure they have the best fire safety practices with guidance on fire risk assessments.

Whilst there will always be some unavoidable fire hazards in the home, landlords can do a great deal to ensure their property is safe by conducting a thorough fire risk assessment before a tenant moves in.

The process, hazards, people at risk and the evaluation of fire safety risks will be highly specific to the premises at hand, however this article aims to give a broad overview of the key considerations for providers of sleeping accommodation.

What is a fire risk assessment?

Landlord’s have a legal duty to ensure that their rented property is safe from fire. A fire risk assessment is evidence that you have fulfilled your responsibilities. Without one, you could be open to claims if there was a fire. What’s more, landlords of houses in multiple occupation (HMOs) are legally obliged to carry out fire risk assessments.

By conducting a fire risk assessment of your private or social rental accommodation you will be able to determine what the chance is of a fire starting, and any dangers to those in the immediate vicinity. The assessment will be a methodical look at the premises, the activities carried out there and the likelihood that a fire could start and cause harm to those in and around the premises.

The aims of the fire risk assessment are unanimous:

  1. Identify any fire hazards
  2. Reduce the risk of those hazards causing harm to as low as reasonably practicable
  3. Decide what physical fire precautions and management arrangements are necessary to ensure the safety of people in the premises if a fire does start

Who conducts a fire risk assessment?

In England and Wales the person who has the duty to comply with the Fire Safety Order and conduct a fire risk assessment is called the Responsible Person. This person has an absolute duty to comply with legislation.

In the case of blocks of flats and houses in multiple occupation, the fire safety legislation applies to common or shared parts. In these cases the responsibility for fire safety usually rests with the landlord who is responsible for conducting the fire risk assessment.

If there is more than one responsible person, you will have to work together to meet your responsibilities. If you are a responsible person but do not possess the necessary skillset to conduct the fire risk assessment, you will need to ask a ‘competent person’ to carry out that fire risk assessment on your behalf (e.g. someone with the necessary training/skills).

What is included as part of a fire risk assessment?

The government has plenty of handy guides, articles and resources to support you through conducting a legal fire risk assessment of your property, including a 5 step checklist.

For a fire to start there needs to be three things present: a source of ignition, fuel and oxygen. You should identify fire hazards in the fire risk assessment within these categories, focusing on ignition & fuel (Oxygen will be in the air). Fire hazard ignition examples include naked flames, electric, gas or oil-fired heaters, cookers and toasters, electric blankets, computers, TVs, washing machines, tumble dryers and lighting equipment. Fire hazard fuel examples includes anything that burns, such as furniture, furnishings, textiles, bedding, clothing and curtains, accumulations of unwanted mail, waste paper, newspapers or waste storage.

What legislation applies to you?

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One of the problems for fire safety in sleeping accommodation is that there is often an overlap between two enforcing authorities: the local housing authority and the local fire and rescue service.

  • The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 (FSO) is the main piece of legislation governing fire safety in buildings in England and Wales.
  • The FSO applies to all workplaces and the common parts of buildings containing 2 or more domestic premises. It places legal duties on anyone in control of these premises (the Responsible Person – usually the owner or landlord) to undertake and record a fire risk assessment and put in place and maintain general fire precautions.
  • The Fire Safety Act 2021 clarified that the external walls, flat entrance doors and structure of buildings are all covered by the FSO and must be accounted for in fire risk assessments.
  • The Fire Safety (England) Regulations Fire Safety (England) Regulations 2022 and section 156 of the Building Safety Act Check your fire safety responsibilities under section 156 of the Building Safety Act 2022 brought in additional duties for Responsible Persons under the Fire Safety Order.

Evaluate, remove or reduce risk, and protect against remaining risk

Fire hazards should be removed where it is practicable to do so, and where they cannot be removed they should be reduced as far as possible. What is considered reasonable in a particular case will depend on an evaluation of the potential to cause harm and the chance of that harm occurring.

These can range from installing fire prevention measures such as additional smoke or heat alarms, assisted living solutions like strobe and vibrating pad or alarm control unit, fire extinguishers and fire resistant doors, to installing fire escape notices (and educating tenants about them), or taking action to replace a situation/appliance with a better alternative e.g. replace portable heating appliances with fixed convector heaters or a central heating system.

Before undertaking a risk assessment, it is best practice to read through the governing guidance to ensure you meet your fire safety duties as a landlord.