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Fire safety

Fire safety

Contents

England & Wales and Northern Ireland

If there is more than one tenancy or family living in a house or flat, the property is called a House in Multiple Occupation (HMO), and as a landlord, you must make sure there are adequate fire safety measures in place for tenants. See our 'House in multiple occupation' section for more information.

If your premises is not a single private dwelling, the responsible person (e.g. the landlord) must undertake a fire risk assessment of the premises and ensure that the general fire precautions are satisfactory. We discuss individual elements of general fire precautions below.

Equipment

Fire detection

HMOs should be equipped with fire alarms and heat or smoke detectors. They should be located in vulnerable areas such as kitchens and should also be accessible in escape routes.

Smoke and fire alarms should conform to BS 5446 Part 1. Electrical alarms and automatic fire detection systems should conform to either BS 5839 Part 1 or BS 5839 Part 6 (dependent on the size and type of premises).

These must be connected to the electricity supply and each alarm should be inter-connected and audible throughout the entire building.

In England, smoke alarms should be installed on every storey of the premises in which there is a room used wholly or partly as living accommodation. Smoke alarms must be in proper working order at the start of tenancies starting on or after 1 October 2015 (unless these tenancies replace or continue immediately after another tenancy for the same property between the same landlord and tenant.)

Firefighting

There should be at least one portable fire extinguisher on each floor of the property and all shared kitchens should have a fire blanket.

The type and size of the extinguisher will vary depending on the risk. However powder or foam extinguishers are normally considered the most suitable for use in kitchens.

Extinguishers should be visible and accessible but placed out of the reach of young children.

You should arrange for all fire equipment to be regularly serviced and kept in good working order at all times.

Fire escape routes

A fire escape route is usually the normal route to the street door of the house or flat. It may be necessary to provide additional exit routes in larger properties with more occupants. Appropriate signage should be provided to identify any additional exit routes.

Once you have identified an escape route, you must ensure that the walls, ceilings, doors, glazing, staircases and staircase enclosures along the route to the exit door are capable of resisting fire for at least 30 minutes.

The escape route including staircases and corridors must be kept clear of obstructions at all times and should not be used as a storage area, especially for combustible items.

Exit (street) doors must be fitted with a lock which can be easily opened from the inside without a key. All fire-resisting doors should be self-closing.

Larger properties

Generally speaking, the more storeys in your property, the more fire safety equipment and escape routes you should provide and maintain. This also applies if the layout of your property is not simple but includes a number of corridors leading in different directions. As a rule, the larger the property, the more fire safety measures must be in place.

Escape routes should be fitted with fire exit signs if the escape route is not the normal way out. If there is a basement, there must be a fire-resistant door between it and the ground floor.

Occupants should have more than one means of quick escape. If the property has an external escape route, it should be protected from smoke and fire.

If the escape route is poorly lit, an emergency lighting system should be installed to illuminate escape routes so that occupants can safely leave the building in an emergency situation.

Scotland

In Scotland there must be at least one working smoke alarm on each floor of a property. Smoke alarms installed after 3 September 2007 must be mains wired, including replacement alarms.

The standards for Houses in Multiple Occupation in Scotland are higher and you should check the requirement with the relevant local authority. In general terms, every HMO must have adequate fire precautions, including provision for:

  • detection and giving warning in case of fire;
  • escape from the building; and
  • fighting fire.

You should carry out a risk assessment, or have one carried out on your behalf, to establish both the risk of fire occurring and the risk to people in the event of fire. This would apply to everyone who may be in the HMO (residents, staff and visitors) and should take adequate account of any people with special needs. Such a risk assessment will show whether the existing fire precautions are adequate, and what changes need to be made if not. The risk assessment will be reviewed by officers of the licensing authority or fire authority when inspecting the premises. Guidance on risk assessment and other fire safety matters is contained in 'Fire Safety - an employer's guide' (ISBN 0113412290). Guidance on risk assessment specifically for HMOs is currently under review.

The main points usually required are:

  • mains-powered smoke alarms on a linked circuit, so that if one detects a fire, all of them sound the alarm. The number and position of smoke alarms will be determined by the size and layout of the accommodation;
  • the escape route from every living room and bedroom should be enclosed by walls with 30 minutes' fire resistance;
  • all fire doors should be self-closing and have 30 minutes' fire resistance;
  • water-type extinguishers should be provided on each floor, and a fire blanket in the kitchen.

There may be additional requirements for escape routes depending on the height of the HMO from the ground, or the number of storeys, and the distance to be travelled within the HMO to the main exit.

Fire safety equipment must be regularly maintained according to the manufacturer's recommendations. You should prepare an emergency plan, and all residents and staff must be made aware of what to do in the event of a fire.

The Furniture and Furnishings (Fire) (Safety) Regulations

These regulations apply across the UK. If you provide new or second-hand furniture in your property, under section 11 of the Consumer Protection Act 1987 you must ensure that it meets safety standards on fire resistance. This applies to all furniture provided after 1 March 1993 and made after 1950.

Display labels should be attached to all furniture meeting the requirements stating that the item meets the necessary requirements of the 1988 Safety Regulations.

Supplying furniture that does not meet these standards could lead to up to 6 months imprisonment and/or a fine of £5,000.

Furthermore, if a fire started in your property and the furnishings were found to be below regulatory standards, you would face serious penalties for contributing to any deaths or injuries.