What are landlords’ fire safety responsibilities?
Landlords need to put steps in place to prevent home emergencies in their property portfolio – if they fail to do so, the consequences could be devastating.
Building Regulations, Fire Safety Orders, the Housing Health and Safety Rating System, HMO Management Regulations, Mandatory Licencing Conditions – the amount of fire safety legislation landlords may be affected by is substantial, but the purpose of this legislation is to keep tenants safe.
Landlords are often the statutory ‘responsible person’ under fire safety legislation, and are therefore legally obliged to ensure they comply with this legislation.
What do landlords need to do?
- Ensure that there is an adequate means of escape in the event of a fire;
- Carry out Fire Risk Assessments for every property in their rental portfolio in order to minimise the risk of a fire, reduce the likelihood of a fire spreading, and ensure that people can escape from a fire;
- In HMOs and commercial premises, place signs telling people what to do in the event of a fire, and ensure that occupants understand these signs;
- In HMOs, keep corridors and other escape routes clear
- Fit 30-minute fire doors in any doors that lead on to escape routes;
- Eliminate or reduce the hazards that dangerous substances pose;
- Keep gas appliances and electrical systems in a safe manner;
- Carry out gas and electrical safety checks;
- Fit smoke detectors in all their properties;
- Ensure that outside doors can be opened from the inside;
- Record any action they take to minimise fire risks; and
- Evaluate their property portfolio regularly.
This list is not comprehensive; different property types have different requirements, and the communal areas in a large bedsit block will have different needs than an individual family flat.
Landlord fire safety failures – case study
On May 1st 2015, at a hearing in Kingston Crown Court, landlady Surinder Rana was fined £160,000 with prosecution costs of £40,000 after her tenant Mr Sukhi Singh lost his life in one of the properties Rana rented out.
The court was told that on August 8th 2011, just after 5am, a fire struck at a HMO at 41 Cromwell Road, Hounslow. Ten people were in the property at the time, and a number of them managed to flee the first floor.
Four fire trucks and 20 firefighters from London Fire Brigade attended the property and found the fire was affecting the loft, first floor and ground floor. Mr Singh was found on the ground floor, in the smoke-logged kitchen. The emergency services rushed him to hospital, but he died soon afterwards.
Later that day, fire safety inspectors attended the property and discovered that:
- It was impossible for people to quickly and safely escape from the property;
- There were no smoke alarms or fire detectors;
- There was no firefighting equipment; and
- No proper fire risk assessments were in place.
London Fire Brigade issued a prohibition notice, preventing 41 Cromwell Road and the neighbouring house – which was also a HMO owned by Rana – from being used as residences until emergency lighting, fire detection equipment and fire separation equipment had been installed.
Commenting after the court hearing, Neil Orbell, London Fire Brigade Assistant Commissioner for Fire Safety, said the sentences received by the offender are a “stark reminder to landlords” that the fire brigade and the court take fire safety equally seriously, and that “severe” penalties can be imposed on those who ignore their responsibilities.
He said the fire brigade will “not hesitate to prosecute” landlords that fail to keep their tenants safe from fire.
Although court action is a last resort for fire safety breaches, cases such as the one above show that the courts are happy to issue fines in these instances. Prison is even a possibility in serious cases.
Landlords – we can provide emergency cover!
A landlord emergency cover plan is an ideal way for landlords to stay compliant with regulations. We can respond to electrical home emergencies, boiler breakdowns and a wide range of other problems, and will arrange annual CP12s and boiler services to ensure that tenants’ gas supply and appliances are as safe as they can be.
If you’re having trouble with any aspect of your boiler, home appliances or if you’re suffering from a home emergency such as an electrical breakdown, plumbing problem or security issue then be sure to get in touch with us.
You can face a hefty bill if something goes wrong at home so eliminate the possibility and speak to us today.
Call us on 0345 3192 247 and one of our friendly technical team will go through some simple diagnostics to see if your problem can be resolved over the phone. If not, we’ll send an engineer to be with you as soon as possible to ensure you’re back up and running in no time.