Being a private landlord comes with many regulations and obligations that you must keep on top of. Not only do you have to find reliable tenants, collect rent and complete maintenance tasks, there are many legal requirements that you must comply with.
The following advice from FireProtectionOnline.co.uk will provide you with a complete guide to fire safety, to ensure you keep your tenants safe, property protected and avoid being named and shamed as a rogue landlord.
Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarms
We all know that smoke alarms are vital in keeping everyone in a home safe – early warnings of fire are important in helping all residents evacuate safely and call for help. The law has finally caught up and requires a minimum of one smoke alarm on each floor of your rental property.
Carbon monoxide alarms are now also required in any rooms with a solid fuel burning appliance. If your property does contain solid fuel burning appliances, you must add carbon monoxide alarms in these rooms.
Although it is not legally required, FireProtectionOnline also advises having your chimneys swept annually, which will help you keep your appliances safe and ensure the chimney isn’t blocked.
The firm also suggests installing carbon monoxide alarms if you have gas appliances in your property, even though it is not mandatory. This is because a faulty gas appliance can also be a source of the harmful carbon monoxide.
At the start of each new tenancy, you must check that all alarms are working, and then make sure that your tenants are aware of their responsibilities.
If you have battery alarms, the tenants should change the batteries every six months and test them weekly. As you cannot rely on them doing so, you have two other options: Firstly, you could purchase long-life battery alarms that have a ten-year guarantee. All you’ll need to do is change the smoke alarm every ten years, which you should do anyway.
Secondly, you could have the alarms wired into the mains electricity, which also contains a life-long battery. This means that the alarm will still work, even if there is a power cut. Also, consider having interconnected smoke alarms put in. All new builds require this system and you can connect them to each other with cables or wirelessly. These can retrofit into the lighting circuit, which means the wireless system will cause less disruption. With these alarms, your tenants will be warned of a potential threat, regardless of where they are in the property.
Regardless of which system you use, you need to fit the right type of sensors. Installing a heat sensor in the kitchen will mean that your tenants have fewer false alarms when they are cooking. Optical smoke alarms are also less sensitive to cooking fumes, which make them ideal. However, having a fire risk assessment completed will help you decide which sensors to fit.
If you don’t meet the smoke and carbon monoxide alarms requirement, you could be hit with a £5,000 fine.
Statistically, someone living in a rental property is seven times more likely to experience a house fire than a homeowner. With that in mind, fit alarms immediately if you haven’t already – they are just as essential as a lock on the front door.
Gas leaks can cause all sorts of serious hazards. As a responsible landlord, you should have carbon monoxide alarms fitted. Not only is the dangerous gas produced by burning solid fuel, but also by gas appliances. Common symptoms
of carbon monoxide poisoning include: Headaches, nausea, dizziness, breathlessness and loss of consciousness.
On average, it causes over 200 hospital admissions per year and around 40 deaths. As carbon monoxide has no colour, smell or taste, it can go by unnoticed, unless you have an alarm. Not only is it harmful to health, but it is also a highly flammable gas that could cause a dreadful explosion.
As you can expect, the law is very strict when it comes to gas safety in rental properties. Failing to comply with the regulations makes you liable for heavy fines and even imprisonment. This is why you must use a professional on the Gas Safe Register to fit all of your gas appliances, pipes and flues.
It is also your responsibility to keep all of these features maintained. A registered engineer must conduct gas safety checks every year on all gas burning appliances, including the boiler, hob and flues. If everything is okay, then you will be given a Gas Safety Certificate. If not, the necessary works must be completed before you are awarded a certificate. It is also your duty to provide tenants with a copy of the certificate before they move in and following any checks.
As a landlord, you must ensure that the property you let out is safe. This means that you need to certify a number of things about your property to make sure that you uphold your legal responsibilities.
At the beginning of the tenancy, check that the electrics are safe and are kept in a safe condition throughout the tenancy, including the electrical circuits, switches, sockets and light fittings. Every so often, conduct property inspections to check there are no signs of damage, such as cracks, burn marks or frayed leads.
The best way to be sure is to have work conducted by a qualified electrician. All Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs) must have their electrics inspected by a professional every five years. For ordinary rental properties, you are not legally required to do so, but it may still be a good idea to help you keep your tenants safe and your property in a good condition.
You also need to make sure that any electrical appliances you provide are safe. Only buy appliances with a CE marking, which shows it meets EU safety requirements. FireProtectionOnline also recommends that you have your appliances PAT tested every year by a registered electrician. Although you are not legally obliged to do so, you are legally required to ensure that your electrical equipment is safe, so that you can provide proof of responsibility should something go wrong.
Also, check that your fuse box has RCD protection; this means its design will protect against electric shocks and reduce the risk of an electrical fire breaking out.
If you are renting out a furnished property, you must be careful when selecting furniture. All upholstered furnishings must be made from a fire resistant material, and you must not remove the label that confirms this when moving the furniture into the property. However, the Furniture and Furnishings Act 1988 does not apply to carpets or curtains.
You may also want to consider providing your tenants with fire safety advice in their welcome pack. Let them know to be careful of placing a lighted candle near curtains and to not leave any lit objects or appliances unattended. It is also a good idea to ban smoking in your property, to reduce the risk of furnishings catching alight.
Generally, fire-fighting equipment is not required in rental accommodation. However, HMOs must have fire extinguishers on each floor of the building in communal areas. It is also wise to provide a fire blanket and a multipurpose extinguisher for your tenants. These will give them the resources to stop a small fire from getting out of control. And although you don’t expect them to fight a fire, these items could help them make a safe exit.
If you do provide an extinguisher, you must make sure your tenants know how to operate it. Although you might not be able to provide them with training, you can offer basic advice.
You will also need to think about which type of extinguisher to provide. A powder extinguisher is best for different uses, but it can cause a significant amount of damage. You should weigh up the risks and decide whether a foam or water extinguisher might be better suited. But remember, any extinguisher you provide must be serviced every year by a trained technician.
Fire Risk Assessments
Completing a fire risk assessment allows you to identify potential risks. You must conduct a fire risk assessment for your HMO under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005. Although you can complete this yourself, you are advised to get a professional to conduct it on your behalf. Either way, as the responsible person, you will be held accountable for it. The aim of the assessment is to identify fire hazards, reduce the risk to those living in the property and decide precautions to ensure the safety of tenants. Using the report, you can then act to make the property as safe as possible.
FireProtectionOnline suggests having a fire risk assessment for any type of tenancy. The report will identify emergency evacuation plans and any fire doors needed. Your evacuation route will likely be the usual way in and out of the home. Typically, this is the front door and hallway. This means that the front door must be easy to open from the inside. Depending on the type of door and lock, this would mean that you have a pushdown handle or a thumb turn latch. To make sure that the evacuation route remains safe, all rooms should have fire doors fitted to ensure any fires are contained in one room. The advantage of this is that damage to the property and risks to the tenants are limited. The doors must be of solid construction and have self-closing mechanisms.
You could also fit the doors with intumescent strips and door seals. These expand in extreme heat to create a barrier and stop the fire and smoke from spreading. This gives the residents more time to react in the event of a fire and keep risks to a minimum. However, you must advise tenants against wedging the doors open, as that would make your efforts futile. Although a bit expensive, you could purchase a fire door retainer. These hold the doors open, but will automatically release and shut the door as soon as it detects the sound of a smoke alarm.
Always tell your tenants what the evacuation route is and ensure that they don’t block it up.
Don’t forget to protect your property with Landlord Insurance. Just Landlords ensures that your property is protected against fire damage, included in our 33 essential covers, which you will receive as standard with one of our policies. If your property becomes uninhabitable, we will also cover your loss of rent so that you don’t miss out financially. Does your current Landlord Insurance provider offer you this much cover? Find out at: https://www.justlandlords.co.uk/landlordinsurance
Following this advice will ensure that you fulfil all your legal obligations regarding fire safety. Of course, if you use a managing agent to look after your property, you won’t have to worry too much. However, you need to make sure that they do everything correctly, as you are ultimately responsible for protecting your tenants.
Remember, it is not just your property at risk, but the lives of your tenants too!
Disclaimer: This article is for information only and is not official guidance, FCA approved, or legally precise. Just Landlords has used all reasonable care in compiling the information but make no warranty as to its accuracy. If you require information on landlord legislation or best practices please contact your legal representative. For details see our conditions.