Smoke alarm regulations
As of the 1st October 2015 new regulations require landlords to ensure the fire safety of their tenants as well as offering protection against carbon monoxide poisoning.
What is happening?
The new regulations require that landlords will be required to install a smoke alarm on every floor of their property and a carbon monoxide alarm in rooms containing a solid fuel appliance.
Landlords will be required to check that alarms are working at the start of every new tenancy and tenants should notify landlords whenever alarms appear to be faulty.
Enforcement of the Regulations is the responsibility of the local housing authority, which can require landlords to fit alarms and if the landlord fails to do so has the power to arrange for them to be fitted. There is a power to levy a penalty charge on the landlord. The penalty charge is limited to £5000.
Who will be affected?
The new regulations will apply to all ‘specified tenancies’, i.e. residential premises where a person or persons have a right to occupy the premises and rent is payable.,
Who is not affected?
The regulations specifically exclude registered social landlords from these obligations. Certain types of properties and arrangements are also excluded, e.g. Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs), lodgers, long-leases, student halls of residence, hostels and refuges, care homes, hospitals and hospices.
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 doesn’t endanger their health. This includes ensuring there are no fire hazards in the property and if it is a house in multiple occupation (HMO), you have additional responsibilities.
What is a HMO?
Tenants should be protected by fire safety laws if they live in a house in multiple occupation (HMO). If you think you are living in an HMO please contact a housing adviser in your area if you’re not certain. 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.
Fire safety in HMOs
HMO landlords have to ensure there are adequate fire precautions (including alarms, extinguishers and fire blankets) and fire escape routes. These must be well maintained and adequate for the number of residents and the size of the property.
HMOs should be fitted with fire warning systems such as fire alarms and heat or smoke detectors. These should be placed throughout the building but particularly in escape routes and areas of high risk, such as kitchens. The fire warning system should be serviced and checked regularly.
Fire equipment such as extinguishers and fire blankets should be provided. There should be at least one fire extinguisher on each floor and a fire blanket in every kitchen. These have to be checked periodically and the correct sort of extinguisher must be provided. It’s up to you to make sure you know how to use the fire blanket and fire extinguisher in an emergency.
Means of escape
HMOs should 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, and
- 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.
If you fail to comply with your fire safety responsibilities, your local council or Warwickshire Fire & 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.
Local Authorities Coordinators of Regulatory Services (LACORS)
LACORS (Local Authorities Coordinators of Regulatory Services) fire safety, advises on the joint working arrangements between local housing authorities and fire and rescue services to deliver improved fire safety.
Fire safety for other residential properties
If the property is not an HMO, there are now specific laws to comply with and you do have a general duty to keep the property habitable.
By law, you need to install smoke alarms, a fire extinguishers and carbon monoxide detectors (where solid fuel appliances are in use).
If the problem is caused by disrepair (for example, loose wiring or a faulty electrical heater) landlords have an obligation to arrange for the necessary repairs to be carried out.
If the local authority consider that the fire hazards in the property could endanger the tenants health or cause a serious nuisance to neighbours or the general public, the local district or borough council private sector housing team may wish to inspect the property and can order landlords to put the problems right.
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.