As a residential property landlord, you have a general duty to keep your tenant’s home fit for them to live in and ensure that it does not endanger their health. This includes ensuring there are no fire hazards in the property. If the property is a house in multiple occupation (HMO), you will have additional responsibilities.
Smoke and carbon monoxide alarms
By law, as a landlord (excluding registered social landlords) you must install:
- a smoke alarm on every floor
- a carbon monoxide alarm in rooms containing a solid fuel appliance.
You must check that alarms are working at the start of every new tenancy, and tenants should notify landlords whenever alarms appear to be faulty.
Certain types of properties and arrangements are excluded (for example, HMOs, lodgers, long-leases, student halls of residence, hostels and refuges, care homes, hospitals and hospices).
If you fail to meet your legal responsibilities then your local housing authority can take enforcement action against you, which may include them arranging for the alarms to be fitted and a fine to be charged.
Fire safety and furnishings
Any upholstered furnishings you provide in the property should be fire resistant – this applies to all landlords. Upholstered furniture includes:
- sofas and armchairs
- beds, headboards and mattresses
- sofa beds and futons
- nursery and children’s furniture
- loose and stretch covers for furniture
- cushions and seat pads
- garden furniture that is used indoors.
There should be a symbol on your furniture to state that it is fire resistant. If the furnishings in the property are not fire resistant, they must be replaced otherwise the trading standards office may get involved.
Fire safety in houses in multiple occupation
There are specific fire safety laws covering HMOs. An HMO could be:
- a hostel
- house split into separate bed sits
- a house or flat share, where people have separate or joint tenancy agreements
- a bed and breakfast or hotel which is not just for holidays.
If you fail to comply with your fire safety responsibilities, your local council or Warwickshire Fire and Rescue Service may get involved and can inspect the property to see if you are complying with the law. They may write to you or the managing agent, setting out what needs to be done including any necessary repairs. They may serve a legal notice and could even prosecute.
As an HMO landlord you must ensure there are adequate fire precautions, including:
- fire warning systems (for example, fire alarms and heat or smoke detectors)
- fire blankets
- fire escape routes
These must be well maintained and adequate for the number of residents and the size of the property.
Fire warning systems must be placed throughout the building, particularly in escape routes and areas of high risk (for example, kitchens). The fire warning system should be serviced and checked regularly.
There must be a minimum of one fire extinguisher on each floor and a fire blanket in every kitchen. These must be checked periodically and the correct sort of extinguisher must be provided.
Means of escape
HMOs must have an escape route that can resist fire, smoke and fumes long enough for everyone to leave (usually at least 30 minutes). This could be:
- internal stairs, corridors or walkways that are specially constructed or treated to resist fire
- external fire escapes (if there are no other means available).
All the walls, ceilings, floors and partitions along the escape route must be fire resistant.
All the doors leading to the escape route must be fire resistant and must close automatically.
Fire safety for other residential properties
If your property is not an HMO, there are laws to comply with and you do have a general duty to keep the property habitable (including an obligation to arrange for any necessary repairs to be carried out).
By law, you must install:
- smoke alarms
- fire extinguishers
- carbon monoxide detectors (where solid fuel appliances are in use)
If the local housing authority consider that fire hazards in the property could endanger your tenants health or cause a serious nuisance to neighbours or the general public, their housing team may wish to inspect the property and can order landlords to put the problems right.