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The Complete Guide To Fire Safety Responsibilities For Landlords

By Darragh Timlin on August 31st, 2022

As a landlord, safeguarding your rental property is one of your most critical concerns. The prospect of losing your property in a catastrophic fire can be daunting. It is not just about the safety of your tenants, but also the extensive repairs, refurbishments, or even a complete rebuild that you may have to face after the fire has been extinguished. This is why having comprehensive landlord insurance coverage can offer you peace of mind, knowing that you are protected in the event of any unforeseen circumstances.

Landlord responsibilities and fire safety go hand in hand. This is why it makes so much sense to take out landlord insurance to help protect you in a fire emergency where you risk losing everything. This type of insurance is specifically designed for landlords facing different risks from a regular homeowner when letting a property.

What Are The Main Causes Of Fires?

According to Firemark, tenants that live in rented or shared accommodation are up to seven times more at risk of experiencing a fire emergency. House fires are more common in the winter over the festive season than at any other time. This has been attributed to the increased use of heating and electrical appliances, higher alcohol consumption, the use of candles, flammable decorations and fairy lights.

House fires have many causes, such as candles, faulty electrical appliances, portable heaters, overloaded sockets and extension leads, cigarettes and deep fat fryers. The most reported fire claims are for electrical faults, so it is essential that you, as a landlord, ensure the electrical wiring and appliances in your rental property in sound order and regularly tested for safety.

How Can I Reduce The Risk Of Fire In My Rental Properties?

Accidents happen, but as a landlord, you can do a few things to help reduce the risks of a fire breaking out on your property. Your tenants will also be responsible for keeping themselves safe and taking steps to prevent a fire from starting and spreading.

The most crucial step for you as a landlord is to ensure you keep on top of your gas and electric safety maintenance with annual inspections and tests using a qualified gas safe engineer. These yearly checks will ensure your gas boiler and appliances are working effectively and issue a fire safety certificate for commercial landlords.

You must also provide a smoke alarm on each story of your property and fit a carbon monoxide alarm in rooms with a solid fuel-burning appliance, such as a wood-burning stove or coal fire.

What Are My Landlord Fire Safety Responsibilities?

As a landlord, you must comply with fire safety regulations. Failing to do so could result in legal action being taken against you. Neglecting your duties as a landlord will not only put your tenants’ lives at risk, but you also risk losing all of your assets as your insurance could be invalidated by not having any fire safety certification in place.

This is why landlords must take their fire safety responsibilities seriously. Here is a list of fire safety requirements that landlords need to cover to ensure their tenants’ safety and protect their property. As a bare minimum, landlords must provide:

  • Access to Escape Routes:
    As a landlord, you are legally responsible for providing your tenants with a safe escape route in an emergency. For a flat above the ground floor, this can be a fire escape ladder fixed to the side of the building. For a house, this could be a fire window that opens wide enough to allow for easy escape. You should also ensure your tenants understand how to exit the building safely and quickly.
  • Smoke / Carbon Monoxide Alarms:
    The most common cause of death in a fire emergency is being overcome by smoke or carbon monoxide. Fitting smoke alarms and carbon monoxide sensors can save lives. Landlords are required by law to have at least one working smoke alarm installed on every floor and a carbon monoxide alarm in any room containing a solid fuel-burning appliance. You must also ensure these devices remain in complete working order with regular testing and battery replacement.
  • Fire-Safe Furniture & Furnishings:
    Landlords must ensure that all furnishing meets current fire safety standards. If you let a furnished or semi-furnished property, all furniture must be made from fire-resistant materials. You can check the manufacturer’s label as it should carry a fire-safety symbol. Fire doors are more commonplace as standard in modern buildings, but if you are letting out an older property; it can help reduce the spread of fire by installing fire-resistant internal doors. These doors are designed to slow the spread of fire, giving your tenants more time to escape the building safely.
  • Fire Fighting Equipment:
    While landlords are only obliged to provide fire extinguishers in large HMOs, you can offer your tenants smaller fire extinguishers for your house or flat. You can also provide a fire blanket to help put out a kitchen fire, such as a chip pan fire. You should check extinguishers and other fire protection equipment you supply at the start of each new tenancy and ensure your tenants know how to use them.
  • Fire Risk Assessments:
    Landlords must have annual Gas Safety checks if their property has a gas boiler, central heating, and a gas oven or stove. You are also responsible for ensuring that electrical wiring; sockets and fuse boxes are safe throughout the tenancy. You can also have a landlord fire safety risk assessment to help you identify potential fire hazards and how to address them. For older buildings or those over three storeys, the risk assessment should be reviewed annually and updated every three years. You may be able to arrange a free home visit from your local fire and rescue service under the ‘Safe and Well’ initiative. This will help to identify potential fire risks within your property.
  • Resident Advice:
    One of the best ways to cut fire risks in your rental property is to let it to non-smokers. Although it isn’t against the law for tenants to smoke in a rented property, many landlords include a clause in the tenancy agreement that states smoking is not allowed. Even though fewer people smoke today, many house fires are still caused by burning cigarettes.

What Are The Tenants’ Fire Safety Responsibilities?

While it is your responsibility as a landlord to ensure you meet your legal fire safety compliances and duty of care for your tenants, not all fire prevention falls on your shoulders. Your tenants are also responsible for preventing fires on the property.

Your tenants need to ensure they are doing all they can to reduce or eliminate fire risks, and it can help to keep good lines of communication up with your tenants to ensure they understand their responsibilities, including:

  • Follow Advice:
    You should clearly outline your fire safety measures and encourage them to get into a routine of regular monthly testing of smoke alarms. They should contact you ASAP if they find an issue with the smoke alarms or are worried about any other potential fire risks on the property.
  • Learn Escape Routes & Keep Free of Obstructions:
    Understand where the escape routes are and try to keep them free of obstructions, such as furniture or clutter.
  • Taking Care When In The Kitchen:
    Never leave deep fat fryers or frying pans unattended when in use. Check electrical appliances such as kettles and toasters for faults.
  • Keep Flammables Away From Heaters & Open Flames:
    Discourage washing or wet clothes drying close to an open fire or draping over an electric heater. Switch off and unplug electrical appliances when not in use.
  • Agree On A Safe Place to Store Keys, So Everyone Has Access:
    You can install a key safe or give a set of keys to a trusted neighbour to keep a spare set of keys handy should they be needed in an emergency, especially when your tenants are out at work or away on holiday in the event of a fire emergency.

What Should A Landlord Do If There’s A Fire In Their Property?

In the event of a fire, the quicker you act, the better chance you have of saving lives and reducing the damage done to your property. Here is what you do if a fire breaks out:

  • Use a fire extinguisher or fire blankets to combat the fire if it is safe to do so
  • Call the Emergency services on 999 and ask for the fire brigade
  • Make sure that the property is safe before allowing anyone to re-enter
  • Take time-stamped photos if it is safe to do so

Once the fire is put out, you should contact your insurer to notify them of the fire and begin the claims process. Your insurer will help support you and advise you through the steps of making a claim and what to do next.

Why Is Landlord Insurance So Important in The UK?

Landlord insurance has proven to be invaluable in the event of a fire emergency in their rented property. Having proper insurance is the best way to protect yourself from the losses caused by a devastating fire. It will cover the costs of necessary repairs, refurbishments and rebuilds to make your property liveable.

Following a fire, there will be a period where you will be without any rental income coming in, and landlord insurance can include cover for lost rental income and the costs of temporarily rehousing your tenants while repairs are undertaken.

Our team at Brisco Business Insurance have many years of experience and knowledge in dealing with landlords and fire safety risks associated with letting out a property. This is why it makes sense to deal with an industry expert rather than a domestic insurance company with little knowledge of insuring buy-to-let properties.

Conclusion

Prevention is always better than cure when dealing with a devastating fire emergency. Ensuring you are doing everything you can as a responsible landlord to protect your tenants and your rental property from fire risks is the best way to reduce or even eliminate many fire risks.

Even though you and your tenants are as careful as you can be to avoid a house fire, accidents do happen. This is why you own it to yourself and to your tenants to have proper landlord’s insurance cover to help you and your tenants to get back on your feet should the worst happen. Are you prepared for unexpected disruptions to your business operations? Explore our business insurance options at Brisco Business to mitigate potential risks.

Darragh Timlin

With over 25 years’ experience, Darragh is an expert in all things insurance. Starting his career in commercial property underwriting, Darragh has worked for a number of global insurers and is now Managing Director of Brisco Business, part of the wider Henry Seymour Group.

All articles by Darragh Timlin

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