All landlords must adhere to core rules to safeguard against fire risk. As a landlord, you need to ensure tenants are protected against all fire risks.
- Escape routes
The first and most critical responsibility for all landlords is to ensure all escape routes are kept clear at all times. If your property is a house in multiple occupation (HMO), all fire doors to escape routes also need to be clear at all times, and must be 30 minutes fire resistant. Emergency lighting should also be checked. As a landlord, you can’t emphasise enough to tenants the importance of keeping fire exits clear. Conduct regular checks to ensure routes and doors remain clear at all times.
- Fire alarms
Check that all smoke alarms and heat detectors suitable to the property are in working order. If they are battery-operated, replace the batteries and check they are working. In larger properties, all alarms should be interlinked and hardwired with a battery back-up. Landlords should test all equipment at the start of each tenancy and typically every three to six months during tenancies.You must also emphasize that the tenants need to check that the smoke alarms are in working condition once a month.
Also check the lifespan of detectors. It’s usually around 10 years. After 10 years, you should replace them because they become ineffective due to a build-up of dust and grease.
- Fire blankets
Apart from a fire blanket in the kitchen, there are no regulations for residential properties to have fire-fighting equipment such as fire extinguishers. Critically, however, if you are putting a fire blanket in the kitchen, brief tenants on how to use it, to avoid scalds or burns. The main reason fire-fighting equipment is not recommended for a residential property is because the focus is on escape.
Landlords should ensure that any that are supplied are in full working order, maintained and inspected annually, and that any instructions on how to operate them should be given to tenants.
- General hazards
Much fire safety advice is common sense but it’s always best to advise tenants about the dangers of leaving pans unattended, as well as other lifestyle considerations, such as leaving items on or near heaters. Tenants must be aware of chargers and other electrical appliances being plugged in too long and overheating, as well as overloading sockets. Only allow a sparker device to be used when lighting a gas cooker, as opposed to matches. You can even put a clause in the contract stating that a gas cooker can only be lit using a sparker.
- Electrical equipment testing
Check appliances all have PAT (portable appliance test) annually. Also ensure electrical appliances have a British or European safety mark.
Everything except the boiler, cooker and solar-panel charging unit would fall into PAT test. What usually surprises landlords is that washing machines, dryers and fridge freezers are considered portable items for PAT.
Some of the rules and regulations around health and safety can be interpreted differently by local authorities. So to ensure you comply, talk to your local housing enforcement officer.
- Annual gas safety check
The annual gas safety check is a statutory requirement for all landlords and is a fire-prevention tool. If your property is an HMO, then there will also be a requirement to get an electrical safety test. This should be done at least every five years. There also may be a requirement to get this done in smaller HMO or non-HMO properties depending on whether the local authority is requesting this as part of any additional or selective licensing schemes.
Landlords should ensure that the engineer understands what they are required to test. When you get a gas engineer to do the gas safety check, ask them to check other gas appliances too, in accordance with the manufacturers’ guidelines.
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