Ensuring the fire safety of a rental property is a critical responsibility that cannot be overlooked. With the risk of fire in privately rented accommodation being significantly higher than in owner-occupied homes, it is important to understand the legal obligations, plus take proactive measures to protect the tenants and the property.

Here, the Tenancy Deposit Scheme looks at common causes of fires in rental properties, current fire safety regulations, advice for HMOs, and provides practical tips to help minimise risk.

The importance of fire safety

Safeguarding your rental property from the threat of fire is a crucial task. Not only is it a legal requirement, but it’s also a vital part of your duty of care. Neglecting fire safety could have serious consequences, endangering your tenants’ lives and leaving you open to severe legal and financial repercussions.

Common causes of fires in rented homes

Understanding the most common causes of fires in rental properties can help agents, tenants, and landlords take proactive measures to mitigate the risks. Some of the primary fire hazards include:

  1. Kitchen Appliances, such as deep fat fryers and cooktops, can cause fires in rental homes if faulty or misused.
  2. Malfunctioning electrical appliances and overloaded power sockets can cause fires, especially in older properties.
  3. Smoking and the use of open flames, such as candles, pose a significant fire risk in rental properties.
  4. Electric heaters and faulty gas appliances can be fire hazards, especially during the colder months when tenants are more likely to use them.

What are the key laws and regulations?

To ensure compliance with fire safety regulations and to protect your rental property, it is essential to familiarise yourself with the relevant legislation and guidelines. The key laws and regulations that govern landlord fire safety in the UK include:

The Housing Act 2004

This act outlines the housing health and safety rating system, which establishes standards for the safety and habitability of rental properties.

Furniture and Furnishings (Fire Safety) Regulations 1988

These regulations set requirements for the fire resistance of furniture and furnishings provided in rental properties.

The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005

This order imposes a duty on the “responsible person” (often the landlord or managing agent) to carry out fire risk assessments and implement appropriate fire safety measures.

The Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarm (England) Regulations 2022

These regulations mandate the installation of smoke alarms and carbon monoxide alarms in rental properties.

The Fire Safety (England) Regulations 2022

These new regulations, which came into force in 2023, introduce additional requirements for landlords of high-rise buildings and HMOs (Houses in Multiple Occupation).

Understanding the nuances of these regulations and how they apply to your specific rental property is essential, so seeking professional guidance or consulting with your local authority can help ensure that you are fully compliant and taking the necessary precautions.

General fire safety requirements to follow

Regardless of the size or type of your rental property, there are several fundamental fire safety responsibilities that landlords must fulfil:

  1. Smoke alarms
    Landlords are required to install at least one working smoke alarm on each floor of the rental property. Regularly test these alarms and ensure they are in good working order.
  2. Carbon monoxide alarms
    Any room that contains a fuel-burning appliance, such as a boiler or wood-burning stove, must have a carbon monoxide alarm installed. Landlords must ensure these alarms are properly functioning.
  3. Escape routes
    Landlords must ensure that all escape routes from the property are clear and unobstructed, allowing tenants to safely exit in the event of a fire.
  4. Furniture and furnishings
    All furniture and furnishings provided by the landlord must meet the fire safety standards set out in the Furniture and Furnishings (Fire Safety) Regulations 1988.
  5. Electrical and gas safety
    Landlords must arrange for up-to-date electrical and gas safety checks to identify and address any potential fire hazards.

Fire safety considerations for HMOs and student accommodation

Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs) pose an increased fire risk due to the higher number of occupants and the shared living spaces. As such, HMOs face additional fire safety obligations:

  1. Fire risk assessments
    Landlords of HMO’s must carry out fire risk assessments to identify potential hazards and implement appropriate precautions. These assessments should be documented and regularly reviewed. This can be arranged with your local authority.
  2. Fire doors
    HMOs are required to have self-closing fire doors installed to help contain the spread of fire and smoke.
  3. Fire escape windows
    Windows along the escape route must meet the legal requirements for fire escape windows, ensuring tenants can safely exit the property in an emergency.
  4. Escape routes
    Landlords must ensure that HMOs have clearly marked, unobstructed fire escape routes that are protected by fire doors.
  5. Fire alarms
    HMOs must be equipped with a fire alarm system, with detectors installed in each bedroom, corridor, and communal area.  Additionally, the kitchen should have a heat-activated alarm.
  6. Fire Extinguishers and Blankets
    Landlords of HMOs must provide fire extinguishers and fire blankets in strategic locations throughout the property.

Compliance with these HMO-specific fire safety regulations is essential to safeguarding the lives of your tenants and protecting your investment.

How can the risk of fire be reduced in rental properties?

While agents and landlords cannot completely eliminate the risk of fire in their properties, there are several steps they can take to significantly reduce the chances of a fire occurring:

  1. Compliance with Fire Safety Regulations: Ensuring full compliance with all relevant fire safety laws and regulations is the foundation of effective fire risk management. Landlords should stay informed about any updates or changes to the regulations and diligently implement the necessary precautions.
  2. Implementing a No-Smoking Policy: Prohibiting smoking within the rental property, either through a clear policy in the tenancy agreement or by providing designated outdoor smoking areas, can help mitigate the risk of fires caused by cigarettes.
  3. Providing Tenants with Fire Safety Advice: Educating tenants on fire safety best practices, such as testing smoke alarms, keeping escape routes clear, and the proper use of appliances, can empower them to be active participants in maintaining a fire-safe environment.
  4. Going Above and Beyond Legal Requirements: While fire extinguishers, fire doors, and fire blankets may not be legal requirements outside of HMOs, providing these additional safety measures can further enhance the fire safety of the rental property and demonstrate the landlord’s commitment to tenant wellbeing.
  5. Conducting Regular Fire Risk Assessments: Regularly reviewing the fire risks in the rental property, either by the landlord or a qualified professional, can help identify and address potential hazards before they lead to a fire.
  6. Seek Professional Guidance: Engaging the services of qualified fire safety experts, such as risk assessors or local fire brigades, can provide invaluable insights and support in developing and implementing a comprehensive fire safety plan.

Some key fire safety tips that agents and landlords can advise their tenants to help mitigate the risk:

  1. Keep all fire escape routes and exits clear and unobstructed
  2. Test smoke alarms on a monthly basis to ensure they are in working order
  3. Avoid overloading the electrical sockets
  4. Never attempt to dry clothes on or near electric heaters
  5. Prompt reporting of any concerns about gas or electrical appliances to the agent/landlord
  6. Refraining from smoking indoors and properly extinguishing any cigarettes
  7. Ensuring that door and window keys are easily accessible in case of an emergency
  8. Understanding the property’s fire escape plan and procedures in the event of a fire

By taking a proactive and comprehensive approach to fire safety, agents and landlords can protect their tenants, their investment, reputation, and ultimately create a safer and more secure living environment.

About TDS

The Tenancy Deposit Scheme is part of The Dispute Service (TDS), the largest tenancy deposit protection (by value) and resolution service provider in the UK making life easier for tens of thousands of agents, landlords, developers, and millions of tenants and homebuyers.

Our award-winning customer service is highly rated on both Trustpilot and Google, and we’re backed by the NRLA. We offer free deposit protection in our Custodial scheme, and the lowest rates for landlords in our Insured scheme.

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