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A Landlords guide to fire safety in rental properties

As a landlord, it is part of your responsibilities to follow fire safety requirements for the safety of your tenants and property. You have to show evidence you have done everything within your power (that can reasonably be expected) to protect your property and tenants from fire and smoke damage. This will include things like fitting the correct alarms and making sure furniture you provide is safe.

You also must always keep up to date and ask for help and advice from your local authority to make sure you are following the latest rules and regulations.

This guide will outline the specific things you must do, plus has links to the official government guidance.

Which fire safety regulations are mandatory?

There are some things related to fire safety that are mandatory (you cannot legally avoid them):

  • Provide and install a smoke alarm on each storey and a carbon monoxide alarm in any room with a solid fuel burning appliance (e.g. a coal fire or wood burning stove)
  • Make sure there is access to escape routes at all times
  • Make sure any furniture and furnishings you supply are fire safe
  • Provide fire alarms and extinguishers if the property is a large house in multiple occupation (HMO)

More details of these can be found as part of the government’s Landlord’s Safety Responsibilities.

What are the fire safety regulations for rented properties?

By now it is clear that a landlord is responsible for fire safety in properties they intend to let, but what are the exact laws?

The fire safety regulations for rented properties are laid out in various Acts, all linked below for your convenience. Be aware that these requirements can vary from one country to another, so always do your homework on your local authorities interpretation where necessary.

Here are the key laws you must follow as a landlord. Read through each thoroughly:

These are the main requirements of fire safety in a rented home, including that tenants can escape easily in the case of a fire.  It details the necessity of making repairs to “the fabric of the property” (such as ceilings) in a “timely manner” so fire can’t spread easily.

If you intend to furnish the property before you rent it out, you need to make sure all furnishings are safe and follow these specific rules. The regulations apply to any item that contains upholstery, so not only sofas, sofa beds, and mattresses but curtains, pillows, and throws etc.

Building regulations impact on fire safety. This could apply to you if you are building a property or refurbishing an existing one before you let it. You must make sure that any work carried out follows the legal requirements.

This act covers fire safety in shared communal areas. Blocks of flats or HMOs might have hallways, stairwells, or shared community spaces. This is vital information for managing agents of blocks and landlords should speak to them about the specific requirements for each individual building.

There must be warning systems in place within the property to alert tenant in case of fire. These rules tell you how to make sure you provide what is needed (and detail the hefty fines if you fail to follow them). Be aware, however, they vary between the different countries within the UK, so check with your local authority.

A property must contain:

  • A smoke alarm for each storey of the property which is used as accommodation (including bathrooms and toilets)
  • A CO alarm in any room which contains a solid fuel burning appliance (gas appliances don’t require one)

What is a landlord’s specific fire safety responsibilities?

These laws are all the make sure that as a landlord you are doing everything you can to prevent fires and protect your tenants and property from any that do occur in your property. You need to be able to prove to your local housing officer or to a court that you did everything that could reasonably be expected to achieve this.

Some of the specific requirements for a landlord, taken from the above legal documents and Acts are:

  • Keep escape routes clear and check your tenants understand they need to do the same
  • Make sure there are no fire hazards near areas where fires may start (e.g. no electrical leads kept near tea towels or combustibles stored near boilers or fuse boxes)
  • Check appliances have had an annual PAT (Portable appliance test)
  • Make sure electrical appliances have a British or European safety mark
  • Check for the display labels that manufacturers are legally required to supply that state they are fire safe

Inventory and inspections

To help you stay on top of the tasks you must undertake as a landlord to ensure fire safety – make it a part of your inventory and inspections. One of the reasons an inventory is so important in this case is it provides an independent record of what you actually put in the property. If a fire was to break out because of something a tenant had added that wasn’t safe from a fire perspective, you could prove that it wasn’t your fault.

When you carry out inspections, check that your tenant hasn’t taken any fire safety labels off furniture you provided, or replaced items without you knowing. Record any changes on the inventory in writing and take photos as well.

Assess the potential fire risks at your property. Legally this has to be done by a ‘competent person’, such as a professionally qualified Fire Risk Assessor. Carry out periodical risk assessments, don’t just do it once and assume that’s enough. Work out and note down everything within a property that could cause a fire and all the different ways that tenants could be warned of fire or smoke in the property. This way you can prepare for any eventuality.

The first Safety Order, which involves making sure communal areas such as landings, stairways and kitchens are kept clear of combustibles is essential, but obviously tricky. Tenants will move items or fail to follow rules and it is difficult to enforce this. Try to get something in writing to share with your tenants about fire safety. This can also be used as proof that you did your utmost to achieve maximum safety for your tenants and property should a dispute arise.

haart can handle an inventory for you, making sure everything above is covered and you are protecting your tenants and property from risk of fire. Contact us as your nearest local branch to arrange this hassle-free service.

Carbon monoxide alarms

As above every property must have:

  • A smoke alarm for each storey of the property which is used as accommodation (including bathrooms and toilets)
  • A carbon monoxide alarm in any room which contains a solid fuel burning appliance (gas appliances don’t require one)

Every home with at least one fuel-burning appliance/heater, attached garage or fireplace should have a carbon monoxide alarm. They are cheap to purchase and provide extra reassurance and safety for your property and tenants.

haart has a separate piece - A landlord's guide to smoke and carbon monoxide alarms for you to read. 

Fire safety in flats

If you own a flat, then it’s your responsibility to carry out all the necessary checks, as above, for the flat itself. However, if you own a whole block of flats, you will have responsibility for the communal areas as well as the internal space within each and every property.

The best way to handle this is to make someone responsible for the overall fire safety in your block of flats. You need to know exactly what they have planned for regulating and maintaining fire safety in the block. LACORS is the organisation which co-ordinates these regulators and you can read guidance here on how to make sure you are following the correct legislation.

Fire safety in Houses of Multiple Occupation (HMOs)

Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs), have slightly different fire safety rules, especially if they require a licence. This is due to the many reasons why things can go wrong when there are lots of people living together who may not know each other.

For HMOs fire safety rules and regulations include:

  • Keeping all exits clear from obstructions
  • Making sure the required equipment, such as fire extinguishers (one on each floor), blankets (especially in the kitchen) and fire alarms are all installed properly and in good working condition
  • Clearly marking fire exits and making sure instructions on what to do in case of a fire are clearly available to tenants
  • Annual gas safety checks
  • Electrics checked at least once every five years

Be sure to stay in touch with your local authority, as regulations can differ in places and you need the most up-to-date guidance.

How to stay ahead of changes to fire safety regulations

Keep on top of the changing rules and regulations and make sure you get advice on regulations you do not understand. Double check with your agent whether their terms and conditions mean they take responsibility for any fire safety breaches. If you’re still responsible, you will need to thoroughly understand the work they do to ensure your property meets the necessary standards.

Remember that each country has its own rules and regulations:

  • Information for England, Scotland and Wales including checklists for the necessary risk assessments
  • Detailed information for Scotland
  • In Wales, you cannot manage a property from November 2016 unless you been on an approved management course or engaged a company or agent that has. Visit for more information
  • For Northern Ireland

Familiarise yourself with your council’s website and resources, as well as keep an eye on national news that could affect you or your rented property. If you don’t keep up with and follow these regulations, you could end up with a hefty fine.

Resources

Thinking of letting? At haart, we’re on a mission to get your property let.  

See our dedicated landlord’s hub and contact our friendly staff at your local branch. Be sure to check out haart’s Top tips for landlords, too.