Fire Safety Considerations As A LandlordBy: Agatha R Robinson
What is an HMO?
Tenants residing in a house in multiple occupation (HMO) are heavily protected by the provisions of fire safety laws under the Housing Act 2004. It is important to ascertain whether the property is classified as an HMO, but in general, the following constitute HMO accommodation:
- a hostel
- a house split into separate bed sits
- a house or flat share, where people have separate tenancy agreements
- a bed and breakfast or hotel which is not just for holidays
Fire safety in HMOs
If the dwelling is a house in multiple occupation (HMO), landlords have certain additional responsibilities towards ensuring the safety of the occupants.
Fire Safety equipment
Landlords of property that has been classified as HMO must take adequate fire safety precautions by fitting fire alarms, providing extinguishers and fire blankets on the premises, and by providing an adequate number of fire escape routes. The equipment must be commensurate with the number of residents and the size of the property, and should be well maintained (landlords sometimes forget that fire extinguishers have an expiry date).
Fire warning systems such as fire alarms and heat or smoke detectors are a must in such residences which are occupied by a number of people. The fire warning system should be serviced and checked periodically.
Fire safety for other residential properties
In respect of properties that are not categorised as HMO, there is no specific legislation regarding fire safety equipment, but it is advisable that landlords are mindful of their duty of care under any Tenancy Agreement to ensure the safety of the occupants from fire hazards.
They may therefore consider installing smoke alarms, fire extinguishers and one or more carbon monoxide detectors, in adequate numbers depending upon the size of the property. If there is any evidence of loose wiring or faulty electrical appliances, these must be put right without delay. Smoke alarms should be of the sealed battery type to avoid tragedy through removal of the battery for other purposes.
Non-compliance of Fire Safety
Landlords who fail to comply with their responsibilities for fire safety, are likely to face the wrath of the local council or Fire & Rescue Service. These authorities may inspect the property to check whether the statutory obligations are being met. They will notify the landlord or his / her managing agent, setting out the tasks to be carried out including any repairs that may be warranted. If these instructions go unheeded, they may serve a legal notice and may even prosecute.
Fire Safety Conclusion
There are various safety measures that landlords must undertake in providing and maintain fittings and appliances in good working order so that their tenants should come to no harm while they are in occupation of the property. Landlords need to use a systematic approach and to have annual inspection and checks performed to see that all is well. The fire safety requirements for HMOs are particularly stringent, reflecting the elevated risks inherent in this type of property through denser occupation ratios. Regardless of the property type, both legally and morally, the landlord has a duty of care to the tenant in this regard.
Agatha Robinson is a freelance writer in consumer, financial and business areas.
You can find impartial advice and further information on choosing buy to let mortgages at www.1000mortgages.co.uk - where whole of market mortgage brokers do the searching for you.