KEY ADVICE FOR PRIVATE LANDLORDS ON FIRE PRECAUTIONS
Identifying the fundamentals as regards fire safety for privately rented accommodation is far from easy. For private landlords our analysis of what private landlords need to do is as follows:-
- Fire precautions can be about giving warning if fire breaks out – fire alarms; how you get out if breaks out – means of escape, including fire doors, emergency lighting where needed, fire resistance of the structure and minimising the spread of fire; compartmentalisation to contain fire especially in blocks of flats; escape windows if needed; fire blankets in kitchens; and signage. Different approaches are necessary depending on the type of property in question. Particular attention is needed where there is a basement or inner rooms, i.e. where you have to pass through another room to get to the escape route.
- The Smoke Alarm Regulations apply requiring minimum provision of smoke alarms and a detector on each floor (or equivalent licensing conditions where licensing is applicable) and for these to be tested on the day the property is first occupied. This is a minimum as extra coverage is required for certain property types.
- Subject to any relevant local guidance, follow the LACORS Guidance applicable to the property in question (assuming the property is no more than six storeys high). This Guidance applies to houses, shared houses, bedsits, converted blocks of flats (unless compliant with modern building regulations) and back to back houses. This Guidance also deals with individual flats in multiple occupation even if they are in blocks which fall within the next bullet point. Specific property types are looked at in Part D of the LACORS Guidance. You will need to look at Part B relating to risk assessment and Part C for general principles. The risk assessment approach must be adopted.
- If residential accommodation is a purpose built block of flats or a converted block which complies with modern building regulations (1991 or later) then follow the LGA Purpose Built Blocks of Flats Guidance. This includes guidance for individual flats within these blocks.
- Any relevant local guidance should be followed. Local guidance usually based on the LACORS Guidance and should be checked especially as it can deal with particular local property types.
- Other national Guidance for existing buildings can be disregarded.
- However, learning lessens from the Grenfell Tower tragedy, buildings in excess of 18 metres in height (six storeys) require special attention. Expert advice will be required especially where non compliant cladding and/or insulation has been installed.
- Where the Fire Safety Order (FSO) applies because there are common parts in multi occupied blocks but not shared houses (so long as these are let out under a single tenancy of the whole property) you must also carry out a fire risk assessment to comply with the FSO or arrange for one to be undertaken by a suitable professional. If you are in control of the common parts you must comply with the general fire safety duty by carrying out the required precautions as provided for under the Order. The outcome for the risk assessment must then be implemented. A competent person must be appointed to assist you with implementation. The risk assessment must be kept under regular review.
- Landlords should only undertake a fire safety risk assessment themselves for single occupancy properties. Even then they should only do t his if they are satisfied that they are competent to undertake this assessment. This requires them to be familiar with the relevant guidance as well as the structure, design and layout of the property concerned. For multi occupancy properties including flats, especially as there is a legal duty to carry out a risk assessment, a competent professional should be employed to carry out the assessment. Guidance on who is competent to undertake such a risk assessment.
- Additionally, if your property has an HMO or Selective licence, then you need to comply with the licence conditions. You should make sure that you check these carefully and ensure that they are fully carried out.
- If the property is an HMO (licensable or not) then you must comply with the HMO Management Regulations. Details of these are set out here.
- Where building work is carried out that requires compliance with Building Regulations then these must be followed but this essentially should be a job for the appropriate professionals to advise you on. Particular care needs to be taken not to adversely affect the existing fire precautions when alterations are carried out to ensure compliance with Building Regulations.
- As Landlord, you must also comply with your responsibilities to provide safe electrical appliances (where you agree to provide these), any furniture or furnishings which you provide are fire resistant and comply with the Furniture and Furnishings Fire Safety Regulations, that the gas installations are safe and that gas appliances provided by you are checked annually. Under your tenancy agreement it will be your legal responsibility to ensure that the electrical installations and gas installations are in proper working order so that they are safe.
- Additional requirements must be followed if residential accommodation is over commercial premises; essentially 60 minute fire separation is needed.
- If in doubt take proper advice including consulting with the local authority or local fire and rescue service. Remember if a fire breaks out and the property is not up to standard action may be taken against you, including the possibility of prosecution.
The advice contained in this Guidance is based on the LGA Guidance document. This Guidance isolates out the sections that are primarily relevant to individual flats but the LGA guidance needs to be read and considered as a whole. The Guidance will not fit each and every case. You should always consider taking appropriate professional advice to deal with the particular circumstances of your individual flat.