Law guide: Landlords

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Fire safety

Fire safety

Before you start letting, you (or your agent) should carry out a fire risk assessment of the property to check that measures to prevent fire and escape from fire are satisfactory.

You must make sure that:

  • Adequate fire safety measures are in place for tenants' protection
  • All fire detection and fire-fighting equipment is regularly serviced and kept in good working order at all times

It's recommended (as a minimum) that:

  • All occupiers know their way round the property
  • Smoke alarms are fitted on each floor of the property
  • A fire blanket is provided in the kitchen
  • The property has a fire extinguisher

Higher standards apply to larger properties and HMOs where the risk of fire is greater. Extra fire safety measures must be put in place, such as multiple fire extinguishers (or a sprinkler system), fire blankets, fire alarms and fire escape routes.

For more about what is classed as an HMO, see Houses in multiple occupation (HMOs).

For guidance on landlord duties for different types of properties see the LACORS Housing Fire Safety guidance. This guidance should be taken into account in doing a risk assessment to decide which precautions are appropriate to the rented property. The guidance reflects best practice but is not mandatory. The landlord has a responsibility to provide safe premises and following the guidance will support an argument by the landlord that they have fulfilled this obligation.

Fire safety of furniture

The Furniture and Furnishings (Fire) (Safety) Regulations 1988 apply across the UK. (They're sometimes referred to as the 'match test'.)

If you supply new or second-hand furniture or furnishings in your property, you must make sure that they meet safety standards on fire resistance (under section 11 of the Consumer Protection Act 1987). This applies to all furniture made after 1950 and supplied for tenants' use after 1 March 1993.

Display labels should be attached to each item of furniture stating that it meets the requirements of the fire safety regulations.

If you supply any furniture that doesn't meet these standards, you could be fined up to £5,000 and/or face up to 6 months' imprisonment. There are also serious penalties for contributing to death or injury arising from a fire in your property where furniture/furnishings are found to be below regulatory standards.

Fire safety equipment (England & Wales and Northern Ireland)

Smoke alarms and carbon monoxide alarms

There is specific legislation requiring fire alarms and heat or smoke detectors in HMOs. There is also legislation applying in England requiring smoke alarms and carbon monoxide alarms in residential properties. However, it is sensible to provide these in any rented premises.

HMOs should be equipped with fire alarms and heat or smoke detectors. These should be located in vulnerable areas such as kitchens. These must be connected to the electricity supply (with a battery supply backup) and each alarm should be inter-connected and audible throughout the entire building. Smoke and fire alarms should conform to BS 5446 Part 1. Electrical alarms and automatic fire detection systems should conform to BS 5839 Part 1 or BS 5839 Part 6 (depending on the size and type of premises). For more information on fire safety requirements in England & Wales, use the LACORS guide (PDF) (the body which co-ordinates local authority regulators).

Smoke alarms should be installed on each floor where there is a room used wholly or partly as living accommodation, and in England this is now a legal requirement.

A carbon monoxide alarm should be installed in any room with a solid fuel burning combustion appliance (for example, one burning coal) if that room is wholly or partly used as living accommodation.

Smoke alarms and carbon monoxide alarms must be in proper working order at the start of any tenancy starting on or after 1 October 2015 in England (unless the tenancy replaces, or continues immediately after, another tenancy for the same property between the same landlord and tenant.)

Fire-fighting equipment

Each floor of the property should have at least one portable fire extinguisher. The type and size will vary depending on the risk. Powder or foam extinguishers are generally considered the most suitable for use in kitchens.

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

All shared kitchens should have a fire blanket.

Fire escape routes

The fire escape route in a property is usually via the main door to the street (or a back door, if there is one). Exit doors must be fitted with a lock that can be opened from the inside without a key.

Escape routes should be fitted with fire exit signs if the escape route isn't the usual way out. They must be kept clear of obstructions at all times and shouldn't be used as a storage area, especially for combustible items. This includes all staircases and corridors.

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.

If the property has a basement, there must be a fire-resisting door between it and the ground floor.

All fire-resisting doors should be self-closing.

The walls, ceilings, doors, glazing, staircases and staircase enclosures along the route to the exit door should be capable of resisting fire for at least 30 minutes.

Larger properties and houses in multiple occupation (HMOs)

Higher standards apply to larger properties and HMOs (where the fire risk is greater). If the property isn't a single private dwelling you (or your agent) must carry out a risk assessment to check that general fire precautions are satisfactory. You should keep a record of your risk assessment.

As well as all of the above safety measures, HMOs, larger properties (and properties with corridors leading in different directions) must be equipped with multiple fire alarms, heat or smoke detectors, fire extinguishers, fire blankets and escape routes.

All shared kitchens should have a fire blanket.

Fire-fighting equipment must be kept in good order.

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. Notices showing fire escape routes should be clearly visible to the occupiers and all such routes must be kept clear.

Fire alarms and heat or smoke detectors should be:

  • Located in areas where the fire risk is greater (such as a kitchen) and be accessible in escape routes
  • Connected to the electricity supply, inter-connected, and audible throughout the property

Fire safety equipment (Scotland)

Smoke alarms

Each floor of a property must have at least one working smoke alarm. Smoke alarms installed after 3 September 2007 must be mains wired, including replacement alarms.

Carbon monoxide alarms

A carbon monoxide (CO) detector is required in every part of a property where there is a fixed combustion appliance (excluding an appliance used solely for cooking) or a fixed combustion appliance in an inter-connected space, for example, an integral garage. In addition, one CO detector is required in each bedroom or principal habitable room, where a flue passes through these rooms.

CO detectors should be powered by a battery designed to operate for the working life of the detector which is usually between five and seven years. The detector should incorporate a warning device to alert the users when its working life is due to expire and should be replaced on or before the expiry date. Hard wired mains operated CO detectors with fixed wiring may be used as an alternative, provided they are fitted with a sensor failure warning device.

Houses in multiple occupation (HMOs)

Higher standards apply to HMOs. An HMO must have adequate fire precautions, including provision for:

  • Fire detection and giving warning in case of fire
  • Escape from the building
  • Fighting fire

You should carry out a risk assessment (or have one carried out for you) to establish 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 and visitors) and should take adequate account of any people with special needs.

The risk assessment should show whether existing fire precautions are adequate, and what changes may need to be made (if inadequate). The licensing authority or fire authority will review the risk assessment if they inspect the premises.

Guidance on risk assessment and other fire safety matters can be found on the website.

You should check requirements for HMOs in your area with the relevant local authority. The main usual requirements are that:

  • Mains-powered smoke alarms are on a linked circuit, so that all alarms will go off if one alarm detects a fire. The number and position of smoke alarms will be determined by the size and layout of the property
  • 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
  • A fire blanket should be provided in the kitchen

Any additional requirements for escape routes will depend 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 maintained based on the manufacturer's recommendations. You (or your agent) should prepare an emergency plan, and all residents must be made aware of what to do in the event of a fire.

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