What are the fire safety requirements for the house or flat I let out?
There are various regulations to be aware of. The first one is the regulatory reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 which came into force 2006.
These requirements lay out various items for landlords to deal with. But they also give a guide through LACORs about housing and fire safety. This is done in agreement with the chief fire officers association and gives a guideline of what needs to be carried out.
The purpose of the guide is to ensure that it gives guidance for landlords and fire safety enforcement officers. Also, for local authorities on how to ensure that fire safety is adequate within certain types of residential accommodation. It gives practical advice on fire risk assessments (see previous article) and contains case studies for fire safety solutions. It is one of the most important guides for a landlord. Please see attached landlords safety responsibilities.
What type of properties does it cover?
It covers the following: –
The guide does not apply to where property was constructed or converted to a standard in compliance with Building Regulations 1991 or later Buildings converted and maintained to a standard meeting those regulations will not need extra fire safety measures. This is unless occupied in a manner other than intended under the original construction or conversion scheme. Where a building did comply, but has deteriorated significantly through a lack of maintenance, damage or other alteration that it may require additional measures and the guide should apply.
It is also not intended to apply to the following:
Guest Houses and bed and breakfast accommodation used by tourists 2. Hotels and Motels 3. Last Hostels which the HM Government guidance is more appropriate 4. Refugees such as family accommodation centres and halfway houses 5. Residential health and beauty spas centres 6. Residential conference, seminar and training centres 7. Student halls of residence and areas of student accommodation other than training institutions including military back up style quarters 8. Areas of buildings and boarding schools that provide sleeping accommodation 9. Seminaries and other religious colleges 10. Sheltered accommodation where personal care is provided 11. Residential care homes 12. Holiday chalets and complexes, camping and caravan parks except where privately owned individual units are in. 13. Areas in workplaces where staff are sleeping in as a condition of employment or a business requirement as in hotels but not included in tied accommodation such as separate flats, houses that are part of HMOs and accommodation above flats.
Those types of property fall under the Regulatory Reform Fire Safety Order 2005.
What else is in the guide?
There is a full section on fire risk assessment (see our previous article). Which again states and lays out that the fire risk assessment should be carried out by landlords on a regular basis and at least every five years. It is critical to understand that as a landlord you are responsible and there are consequences if it does not take place. It should be noted, that where there are any shortfalls regarding a lack of fire protection between an individual flat and the common escape route. That can be directly attributed to an owner of a building. Where a managing agent cannot enforce improvement, the occupant of the flat may be held responsible as the owner or may be virtue of contract of tenancy. If an individual lessee denies access to a flat then it is the managing agents or the right to manage company’s responsibility to enforce this.
You need to be aware that if common ways are not adequately protected from the effects from a fire. From individual dwellings and this is a negligent/inaction by individual tenants/owners who have failed in their duty. It is an offence in Article 32(1)(a) of the order which can be punishable in a criminal court. Or if the failure to carry out duty is demonstrable as a joint failure i.e. the managing agent they can also be found culpable under Article 32(10)
For instance, in Leicester a landlord was sentenced to eight months in prison for ignoring fire regulations. He was lucky because he had ignored fire risks but no one had died and he was warned if they had he would be spending a lot longer in prison. This is how important it is.
LACORs gives you outlines for general principals of fire risk reduction. Which would in effect come under the fire risk assessment in any event. This would include general fire risk safety principals, escape routes, habitable basements, unoccupied basements and cellars, inner rooms, galleries, requirement for escape windows, protection of routes and stairs, exit doors, secondary means of escape, external stairways, fire separation and compartmentation, fallen ceiling partitions and automatic fire detection and alarm systems.
They will also include lighting of escape routes which need to come on when there is a fire and these need to be battery operated back up. It needs to show the emergency escape route for lighting and any firefighting equipment that is required. There are various items in relation to water suppressing and fire safety signs together with the floor coverings and a whole host of items that it lays out.
Are there different types of fire alarm systems?
There are different types of fire alarms such as battery operated as well as automatic fire detection and warning systems under BS5839: Part 1 section 6 which contains various recommendations for routine testing as well as lays out the different grades as follows: –
Grade A system
Routine testing of at least one detector or call point in each zone should be tested weekly to ensure the correct operation of the system. Any defects should be recorded in a logbook and action taken to correct it.
A six-monthly service should be carried out by a competent person, usually a specialist alarm engineer under a maintenance contract. It entails a full test to ensure compliance as specified in BS5839: part 1 section 6. It should be recorded in a logbook and a periodic inspection test issued.
Grade D and E systems
Routing testing – these systems should be tested every month by use of a test button on a smoke alarm.
Routing maintenance – all alarms should be cleaned periodically in accordance with the manufacturer’s recommendations
It is recommended that all detectors should be tested at least once a year to ensure that they respond to smoke. Tests should not involve the use of open flame or any other smoke or nonspecific aerosol that could contaminate the detection chamber or the electronics of the detector itself. Suitable specific testing aerosols are available. The test is duly carried out by a specialist alarm engineer under a maintenance contract. It should record in a logbook, with a periodic inspection test certificate issued.
The guide is comprehensive and will give you an outline of anything that you need and is laid out in such a way that it is easy to read.
What are the definitions on the property descriptions that they have laid out in their report? –
Single household occupancy. This relates to houses, flats and maisonettes occupied by a person who is living as a single household. The term ‘household’ means either a single person or members of the same family who are living together. This includes people who are married, living together as married including same sex relationships. Family means specific relatives, parents, grandparents, children, stepchildren, grandchildren, brothers, sisters, uncles, aunts, etc.
There is no legal definition of a ‘shared house’ so the term can sometimes be confusing. Whilst shared houses fall within the legal definition of an HMO and will be licensable where licensing criteria is met. It is recognised that they can often present a lower risk than traditional bedsit type HMOs due to their characteristics. Shared houses are described as HMOs where the whole property has been rented as a definable group of sharers such as students, work colleagues or friends as joint tenants.
Each occupant has their own bedroom but they share a kitchen, dining room facilities, WC, living room and other parts of the house. All the tenants have exclusive legal possession and control of all parts of the house including all the bedrooms. There is a significant degree of social interaction between the occupants and they will in the main have rented out houses as one group. There is a single joint tenancy agreement in place.
Bedsit type HMOs
These are HMOs that are converted into many separate non self-contained bedsits. But alternatively, there may be shared cooking facilities or a mixture of the two. Toilets, washing facilities must be shared. There is unlikely to be a community living or dining room. Each bedsit or letting will be let to separate individuals who live independently. With little or no communication between the tenants. Each letting will have its own individual tenancy agreement and usually a lock on each individual door.
Houses/buildings converted into self-contained flats
Houses and buildings converted into self-contained flats where the conversion did not meet the current building regulations under Building Regulation 1991. Buildings that were converted to a standard meeting those regulations and which still meet them are not included in the LACORs guide. This just depends on whether there are any alterations post conversion.
Flats in multiple occupation
Back to Back Houses
These typically back directly onto one another at a party wall and have other houses either side. This means that there is only exit from the house and escape route which inevitably passes through a risk room.
The rest of the LACORs report is self-explanatory. But should be read through by Landlords to ensure that they are aware of what their requirements are. It is critical as it could affect your insurance.