The Landlord’s HMO Fire Safety Guide

As a landlord of an HMO a key factor to consider before you rent out your property is fire safety. HMO’s are licensed by the local council and they will want to check your property has the necessary levels of fire safety before issuing a licence to you.
In our latest blog, we look at guidance, precautions and your duties as a landlord.

The starting point for HMO Fire Safety is the fire risk assessment (FRA), which must be completed by a competent person – someone who has the qualifications and experience, particularly of HMO’s, to carry out the FRA. The aims of the FRA are:

1. Identify all Fire Hazards – anything that has the potential to cause harm in event of a fire.
2. Reduce the Risk of those hazards causing harm to people to as low as reasonably practicable.
3. Determine a plan of action, including all fire precautions and management arrangements necessary to ensure the safety of people in your premises if a fire does start.

In terms of HMO Fire Safety guidance, most councils produce their own guidance document, ProFire can provide this for you on request, these documents will advise on specifics within your property but we have compiled a list of the most common issues to consider:
1. Fire Prevention – Prevention is always better than protection, so consider the following:
a. Electrics – ensure the electrics within the property are in good working order – have the installation checked by a competent electrician and act on any recommendations from the report – it will also give you a date for reinspection.
b. Gas – Have the gas installation checked and serviced at least once a year by a registered Gas Safe registered gas fitter. You must give a copy of the safety certificate to each resident within 28 days of inspection and to new residents before they move in.
c. Furniture – If you provide furniture make sure it all has sewn in labels showing that it has fire-resistant filling and covers ( a legal requirement).
d. Flammable Materials – prohibit the use of portable gas or paraffin heaters in the house by occupants; do not store highly flammable materials in the house (eg. Paint, thinners, LPG cylinders etc).
e. Combustible Items – do not store large quantities of combustible materials such as cardboard boxes or newspapers in understairs cupboards, cellars or in the loft.
2. Detection of Fire – the size/layout of your property will determine what type of fire alarm system and detection you require, a competent fire risk assessor will be able to advise which type and grade of alarm is required for your property. It should always be installed and maintained by a professional The following points usually apply:
a. All risk rooms (kitchen, bedroom, living room) and circulation space need a mains/wired detector and alarm with integral battery back up.
b. Kitchens or bedrooms with cooking facilities need a heat detector – mains wired/battery back up;
c. The detectors need to be to be linked so that everyone in the house is alerted when the alarm sounds.
3. Escape Route – the means of escape from the property needs to be protected in the event of a fire – occupants should be able to reach the outside of the building without passing through a higher fire risk area. All areas of the escape route must be free of obstacles and combustibles and it must incorporate half hour fire resisting walls, floors, ceilings and fire doors. Any locks on doors should be able to be unlocked without a key from the inside (eg. Thumb turn locks) to aid evacuation. Any meters (electric or gas) housed within the escape route must be protected with 30 minutes fire rated material.
4. Fire Doors – fire doors must be provided to protect means of escape, they must have 30 minutes fire resistance and be fitted with smoke seals, intumescent strips and self closing devices. It is important that your fire doors are kept in good working order and that they are not wedged open or the self-closers are disabled.
5. Emergency Lighting – it is usually required throughout the escape route, but this can be determined by the fire risk assessor; where it is required it must be designed and installed in accordance with BS 5266 part 1 (or equivalent).

In Summary as a landlord you have a duty to protect your residents and other members of the public who enter your building and there are many factors to consider. Liaise with the local authority HMO officer and choose a reputable and accredited fire risk assessor to ensure your property is protected from the very real risks and consequences of fire.
ProFire’s fire safety team are available to discuss any issues relating to your property – contact us here or sign up to our newsletter here.

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