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 in agreement with the chief fire officers association. It gives a guideline of what needs to be carried out.
The purpose of the guide is to ensure that it gives guidance for landlords. However, also help fire safety enforcement officers. Local authorities will use this on their fire safety. They will ensure that residential accommodation has adequate safety. It gives practical advice on fire risk assessments. It contains case studies for fire safety solutions. 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: –
- Single household properties
- Shared houses
- Bedsit HMOs
- Purpose built flats and buildings converted into self-contained flats. Flats to a standard not in compliance with building regulations 1991.
- Sheltered accommodation where personal care isn’t provided
- Small hostels to which the Government sleeping accommodation.
The guide is not applicable where the property was constructed on converted to a standard in compliance with Building Regulations 1991. If the building were converted and maintained later then it would need to meet the current standards. It was intended that the original construction or conversion scheme should be under Building Regulations. However, there are buildings that did comply but no longer. They have deteriorated significantly through a lack of maintenance. They have damage or other alterations that it may require additional measures. The guide would then apply.
It is also not intended to apply to the following:
- Guest Houses and bed and breakfast accommodation used by tourists.
- Hotels and Motels
- Last Hostels which the HM Government guidance is more appropriate.
- Refugees such as family accommodation centres and halfway houses
- Residential health and beauty spas centres
- Residential conference, seminar, and training centres
- Student halls of residence and areas of student accommodation other than training institutions including military back up style quarters.
- Areas of buildings and boarding schools that provide sleeping accommodation.
- Seminaries and other religious colleges
- Sheltered accommodation where personal care is provided.
- Residential care homes
- Holiday chalets and complexes, camping and caravan parks except where privately owned individual units are in.
- Areas in workplaces where staff are sleeping in as a condition of employment.
- A business requirement as in hotels but not included in tied accommodation.
- Separate flats for business occupation.
- Houses that are part of HMOs and accommodation above commercial.
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). It lays out that the fire risk assessment needs to be carried out by landlords every 5 years. It is critical to understand that as a landlord you are responsible. There are consequences if it does not take place.
The guide outlines where there are shortfalls regarding a lack of fire protection. This can be between an individual flat and a common escape route. This can be directly attributed to an owner of a building. If the managing agent cannot enforce improvement, the occupant is held responsible. It just depends on how they have tried to resolve it. If an individual lessee denies access, then they may be liable. Managing agents and right to manage companies are also responsible.
You need to be aware that if common ways are not adequately protected from the effects from a fire. Individual dwellings and negligent/inaction by individual tenants/owners. If they fail to carry out their duty in relation to the fire. 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. This is where 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. 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
- requirement for escape windows
- protection of routes and stairs
- exit doors.
- secondary means of escape.
- external stairways
- fire separation and compartmentation
- fallen ceiling partitions.
- automatic fire detection and alarm systems.
They will also include lighting of escape routes. These need to come on when there is a fire. It needs to show the emergency escape route for lighting. Also, any firefighting equipment that is necessary. There are various items in relation to water suppressing. However, 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. Warning systems under BS5839: Part 1 section 6
These 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. Call point in each zone. Tests are weekly. This is to ensure that they have a correct operation of the system. Defects recorded. Action then needs to be taken to correct it.
A six-monthly service should be carried out by a qualified person. You should have a maintenance agreement. It entails a full test to ensure compliance as specified in BS5839: part 1 section 6. This should be recorded in a logbook. It should show the periodic inspection test and when done.
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. Tests should not involve the use of open flame. They should include any other smoke or nonspecific aerosol that could contaminate the detection chamber. Suitable specific testing aerosols are available. a maintenance will be needed. Logbooks are needed for records. A periodic inspection test certificate issued.
The guide is comprehensive. It will give you an outline of anything that you need. It is also easy to read.
What are the definitions on the property descriptions that they have laid out in their report? –
1. 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 a single person. It can also mean members of the same family who are living together. For instance, family means specific relatives, parents, grandparents, children, stepchildren, grandchildren, brothers, sisters, uncles, aunts, etc.
2. Shared houses.
There is no legal definition of a ‘shared house’ so the term can sometimes be confusing. However, whilst shared houses fall within the legal definition of an HMO they will need a license. They can present a lower risk. Above all, traditional HMOs present a higher risk. However, it could include work colleagues or friends as joint tenants.
Each occupant has their own bedroom. However, they share a kitchen, dining room facilities, WC, living room. All the tenants have exclusive legal possession. They control of all parts of the house including all the bedrooms. However, there is a significant degree of social interaction between the occupants. They will in the main have rented out houses as one group. There is a single joint tenancy agreement in place.
3. Bedsit type HMOs
HMOs that are converted into non self-contained bedsits or units. the have shared bathrooms. They may share cooking facilities. For instance, there may have a mixture of two toilets, washing facilities may also be shared. It is unlikely to be a community living or dining room. However, they may have little or no communication between the tenants. Each letting will have its own individual tenancy agreement. They usually a lock on each individual door.
4. Houses/buildings converted into self-contained flats.
Houses and buildings converted into self-contained flats. This means where the conversion did not meet the current building regulations. This is Building Regulation 1991. However, this means that they will still meet them now and include in the LACORs guide. This just depends on whether there are any alterations post conversion.
5. Flats in multiple occupation
Any self-contained flat in which it is occupied by three or more persons who do not form a single household. Above all, fire standards would not be enforceable under Housing Health and Safety rating system. This relates to some transitional and additional HMO licencing schemes. Please do not hesitate to read our previous article on mandatory HMO licencing across the country – https://harringtonslettings.co.uk/licence-is-an-hmo-licence-mandatory-across-the-country/
6. 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. Therefore, you 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.