As a landlord, it will always be in your interests – not just those of your tenant(s) – to ensure the buildings for which you are responsible pose the lowest possible fire risk. Integral to this will be ensuring your properties are thoroughly assessed for the risk of fire, with suitable measures subsequently put in place to help protect occupants and visitors.
But what are a landlord’s exact responsibilities regarding fire safety, and how can you best ensure your meet your obligations as a landlord? Find out in this landlord’s guide to fire risk assessment.
What is a landlord responsible for?
There’s more to fulfilling your fire safety responsibilities as a landlord than ensuring there are a few fire extinguishers in the property. Landlords – as is the case with employers – are subject to certain legal obligations when it comes to protecting their properties and the people based in them against the risk of fire.
The law sets out the need for landlords to undertake fire risk assessments across all areas of their properties. This process is key to pinpointing any fire hazards in the property, as well as who is at risk as a result, and what steps may need to be taken to minimise or eliminate the risk.
If you are a private-sector landlord, you are also usually required to have at least one smoke alarm installed on every storey of each of your properties, as well as a carbon monoxide alarm in any room containing a solid fuel burning appliance, such as a wood-burning stove or coal fire. You will then be required to ensure the alarms are in working order as each new tenancy begins. This fire risk assessment checklist will outline the things you need to know when carrying out an assessment.
What legislation applies to a landlord?
There are various areas of current law applicable to landlords. Among these is the Housing Act 2004, which incorporates the Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS), with its description of many of the fire safety responsibilities landlords have in the UK.
Landlords must also be mindful of the Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarm (England) Regulations 2015 – which concerns the aforementioned installation of warning systems – and the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005.
The latter states that the responsible person for a multi-occupied residential building – such as a landlord – is required to carry out a fire assessment in shared communal areas, like shared kitchens or hallways, to ensure appropriate fire-safety precautions and procedures are in place.
What are a landlord’s legal obligations?
Every landlord has at least some level of legal obligation with regard to fire safety. As a bare minimum, you will be expected to make sure there is adequate means of escape from your property in the event of fire.
Further obligations apply to landlords of shared and Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMO) properties, under the above-mentioned Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order (2005), Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarm (England) Regulations 2015, and the Housing Act 2004.
Who should carry out a fire risk assessment?
If you are a landlord, a fire risk assessment must be carried out for every property you rent out. The law requires that the responsible person ensures a fire risk assessment is undertaken, although it doesn’t necessarily need to be you who actually conducts the assessment; it is permitted to arrange a competent person to do this on your behalf.
However, according to the law, it is still the landlord themselves, rather than this competent person, who will be responsible for meeting the legislation’s requirements.
What does a fire risk assessment contain?
There are five steps involved in undertaking an effective fire risk assessment:
- The identification of fire hazards, including potential sources of ignition, fuel and oxygen
- The identification of at-risk people, including people in and around the property and individuals at particular risk
- The evaluation, removal or reduction of risks; this process includes evaluating the risk of a fire breaking out, and the risk to people from such a fire. It also encompasses the removal or reduction of the fire hazards and risks identified, and the introduction of fire precautions to help protect users of the building
- Recording, planning, informing, instructing and training; this is the stage at which you will record any major findings and actions. It is also at this stage that you should be discussing the findings and working with any other responsible people, putting together an emergency plan, informing and instructing relevant people, and providing appropriate training
- The regular review of your fire risk assessment, including making any changes where needed
To help enforce compliance with the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order (2005), local and regional fire and rescue authorities (FRAs) may appoint inspecting officers to carry out work on their behalf.
These inspectors are given certain powers, including to enter any premises at any reasonable time, where they have reason to believe it is necessary for them to do so in order to enforce the Fire Safety Order.
Such inspectors may also make enquiries to help ensure the responsible person is complying with the provisions of the Fire Safety Order. In addition, they might request that any records the Fire Safety Order requires to be kept are produced, so that they can inspect them and make copies if needed.
Inspectors with authority to exercise powers under the Fire Safety Order – which they will be able to produce evidence of, if required – are also entitled to take samples of any article or substance found in a given property, in order to ascertain its fire resistance or flammability.
What happens if there is non-compliance?
There are various courses of action that a fire and rescue authority may take if it finds a given property to be non-compliant with the Fire Safety Order. These can include advice letters, minor deficiencies letters, and action plans.
An FRA may choose to issue the responsible person with an alterations notice, if it is of the view that the particular property represents a risk to relevant persons, or could constitute such a risk in the event of changes. Such a notice will require the responsible person to notify the FRA of any proposed changes to their premises before they will be permitted to proceed.
Other tools that FRAs can serve on responsible persons if needed include enforcement notices and prohibition notices, which are more serious remedies. A prohibition notice is reserved for circumstances where the severity of the risk to relevant persons is so severe that the property’s use must be immediately restricted or stopped.
Better ways to manage fire risk assessments
With the regulations in relation to fire and building safety continuing to evolve in the years since the tragedy at Grenfell Tower, it is crucial for landlords to remain abreast of the latest regulatory changes, and to keep on top of their compliance responsibilities.
One key tool for helping to ensure compliance is ACMS UK’s own Vision software.
In tandem with the Audits Module – using the Fire Risk Audit – the latest PAS79 FRA Template is now available. Used in conjunction with the Mobile App, live data can be uploaded, viewed and edited at site level, giving instant access to those who need to manage their premises. The use of NFC or RFiD technology, via the Vision-tag, enables better, more efficient and cost-effective management of fire risk; simply tagging emergency equipment and exits, allows service personnel to maintain and monitor their fire risk assets, and managers to keep abreast of significant findings, budgeting for remedial works or replacement equipment in accordance with legal requirements and their own financial year end.
To learn more about Vision and to book a demonstration, please don’t hesitate to call ACMS UK.