Being a landlord is no joke, and it’s really important for any landlord to take their job seriously. It’s your responsibility to make sure that you’re providing a safe place for your tenants to live. Within this realm sits fire safety. There’s a lot of regulations around fire safety in residential properties, and it often differs from country to country. Particularly after tragic incidents such as the Grenfell Tower fire in 2017, it’s extremely important to show that you’ve done what you can to ensure that your tenant is as safe as possible from fire breaking out.
In short, a landlord is responsible for keeping the property safe and free from fire hazards. There must be a smoke alarm on each storey and access to escape routes at all times. Your property’s electrics and gas must always have up to date safety certificates and your appliances need to have a portable appliance test annually. Make sure that all furniture and furnishings that you supply are fire resistant. This includes all upholstered furnishings such as sofas and armchairs, beds, headboards and mattresses, cushions, seat pads and sofa beds. There will be a fire resistant symbol on every piece of fire safety tested piece of furniture, so look out for that when kitting out your rental.
It’s one thing getting to grips with all of the current rules and regulations around fire safety, but you also need to keep up to date with any changes. If not, you could end up with tens and thousands of pounds worth of fines - or worse, something could happen to your tenant under your watch. The Gov.UK website is a good place to start with any legislation changes.
If you use a letting agent, you’ll need to check with them or in their terms and conditions who is technically responsible for any fire safety breaches. If it’s you that’s responsible, make sure you’re really clear on what they are doing to meet standards and if they’re doing what you deem to be enough. If they’re the ones that are responsible, it’s still a good idea to be in the know. Also, be sure to check their lettings qualifications. Make sure whoever you go with knows what they’re doing. Ideally, they should be part of a recognised regulatory body such as ARLA (Association of Residential Letting Agents) or safeagent. Speaking of responsibility, if you’re doing any improvements or refurbishments on a property, you also need to be following the latest rules and regulations - even if it’s not you that’s undertaking the work. It’s your responsibility to ensure that the work that’s being done meets standards.
Carbon monoxide alarms act as a warning system within the property to alert the tenant in case of a fire. It also detects carbon monoxide - as the name suggests - which is known as a silent killer. This gas finds its way into a house through a few different seemingly harmless sources and even in small doses, carbon monoxide can be really dangerous.
Generally speaking, a carbon monoxide alarm is only needed by law in England in any room with a solid fuel burning appliance, such as a coal fire or wood burning stove. It’s good practice however to install one in your property, regardless of whether it features a solid fuel burning appliance. They’re not at all expensive and they provide the peace of mind that you’ll never end up in a horrible carbon monoxide poisoning situation.
The overriding principle when it comes to tenant safety is to be able to prove that you’ve done everything that could reasonably be expected of you to protect your tenant. There’s a lot of things that you can implement to help prevent a fire. A good place to start is to carry out your fire risk assessment. Identify fire hazards within the premises, identify the people at risk and evaluate the potential risks. Then, remove or reduce these risks if possible and if not, protect against the remaining risks. Record what you’ve done and inform your tenants on what they should do in the event of a fire, making sure they are as clued up as possible. Repeat this process annually, taking into consideration any new regulations and changes. Claiming ‘I didn’t know’ to an enforcement officer or in a court is not going to work at all well in your defence.
It’s a good idea to keep an inventory of items that you’ve provided in the property. You could do all you can to make sure that everything in there is fire resistant, but all it takes is for your tenant to put something that isn’t fire resistant in a high-risk area and you’ve got yourself a situation. Keeping an inventory means that if something was to happen, you can prove that it wasn’t your fault. If you’re up for going above and beyond, make sure there’s functioning smoke alarms in any rooms used for daytime living, including hallways and landings. Install a heat alarm in the kitchen and make sure that all alarms are interlinked. That way, you’ll be seen as doing as much as possible to keep your tenants safe. Education is everything when it comes to fire safety. If you’re not confident enough to carry out your own risk assessment, have a qualified Fire Risk Assessor come in and do the checks for you to relieve the burden. Sometimes, a bad situation can’t be avoided, no matter how careful you are. Your tenants may not be the ones who understand or follow the rules, but all you can do is your best to ensure that the property as safe as possible from fire risks and hazards.