The actual steps you will need to take should be identified by the fire risk assessment – however, some important considerations apply to most premises.
- You should fit appropriate smoke detectors in dwelling units for which you are responsible. These may be either battery operated or mains powered, depending on the premises type and use. Battery operated smoke detectors need to be tested and have their batteries replaced regularly (which residents may fail to do); those running from the mains should be capable of working in the event of a power failure.
- An automatic fire alarm should be installed in the common parts of houses in multiple occupation, flats with inadequate fire separation, or other shared accommodation premises. This may need to be interlinked with the detection within the dwelling units. Guidance on the appropriate standard can be found in the LACORS Housing Fire Safety Guide.
- Ensure that all final exit doors can be easily opened at all times from the inside. If you fit a mortise lock, make sure you install one with a thumb turn which can be easily opened from the inside.
- Carry out regular electrical installation safety checks. If your property has an alarm system and/or emergency lighting installed into the common areas, these will need to be maintained by a competent engineer.
- Make sure passages and corridors that form the escape routes are kept clear, i.e. do not have anything which can burn or obstruct the escape route for residents leaving the premises in the event of a fire. Ensure that residents understand the importance of maintaining clear exit routes.
- All doors that lead onto the escape route (i.e. front doors to flats) are required to be to a minimum of 30 minute fire resistant (FD30) standard.
- Ensure that all outdoor bin areas are tidy and free from combustible materials. If possible, lock bin areas to prevent arson and supply keys to all residents.
- Make sure your risk assessment has been completed, is suitable and sufficient, and is reviewed regularly.
- Encourage your residents and contractors to report any property defects or fire safety issues as soon as possible and repair any defects promptly.
Dorset & Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Service is unable to complete a fire risk assessment for you, although we can offer guidance and best practice advice on how to meet the requirements of the Fire Safety Order. You may consider employing the services of a competent fire safety professional to carry out an assessment and provide a report – this should ideally be carried out before taking in residents, and before starting any building work.
Landlords who own or manage blocks of flats
Given that most fires occur in domestic dwellings, it has been recognised that a block of flats as a building containing many such dwellings has the potential for a higher risk to people should a fire break out.
Accordingly, fire safety standards have been developed to address this risk and seek to afford the same level of safety found in houses to those living in blocks of flats.
Additional information for fire safety in flats can be viewed by following this link: Fire safety in purpose-built blocks of flats.
Legislation requires that landlords carry out fire risk assessments in all common areas of properties. This process will identify any fire hazards and who is at risk, and decide if anything can be done to minimise or remove that risk.
At the very least, you should ensure that there is an adequate means of escape in case of fire, and landlords of shared properties and houses in multiple occupation (HMO) will have additional obligations, both under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 and the Housing Act 2004.
Landlords of private single properties (dwellings)
People who live in rented or shared accommodation are seven times more likely to have a fire. If you rent out private accommodation, you as a landlord will have to meet certain safety obligations under the law. This includes making sure all gas and electrical appliances you provide are safe to use and in good working order.
The most important action a landlord can take is to provide a working smoke detector on each level of your property. Although you are not currently legally obliged to fit smoke detectors to your single dwelling properties, it is seen as best practice to do so and also shows your residents that you take fire safety seriously.
You must also consider the following:
- Gas appliances must be checked by a registered Gas Safe engineer every year.
- Electrical appliances must carry the British or European safety symbol.
- You must ensure that any furnishings you provide in your property are fire resistant and meet the appropriate safety regulations.
- You must produce safety certificates to your residents, so they can see that gas and electrical appliances have been checked.
- Under the Housing Act 2004, a landlord must ensure that there are adequate escape routes in the property.