As a responsible landlord or real estate agent, ensuring the safety of your properties and tenants is a top priority.
But the world of fire safety can be complex and overwhelming, with fire safety checks, risk assessments, boiler checks, and carbon monoxide alarms to consider.
The stakes are high, and the consequences of neglecting fire safety can be catastrophic.
Just imagine the devastating impact of a fire incident in one of your properties. Lives could be at risk, valuable assets could be lost, and your reputation could be tarnished forever. Staying informed and prepared is no longer an option—it’s an absolute necessity.
Which is why we’ve created Vibrant’s Essential Fire Safety Manual for Landlords and Real Estate Agents. In our guide, we address the key challenges and provide you with actionable solutions.
We understand that your time is valuable, so we’ve distilled the most critical information into this single resource.
Whether you’re a seasoned property owner or just starting out, we’ll equip you with the knowledge and tools you need to create a safe and secure environment for your tenants. From conducting thorough risk assessments, to ensuring regular boiler checks and the installation of carbon monoxide alarms, we leave no stone unturned.
Fire Safety & Landlord Responsibilities
Top Causes of Fire in Residential Properties – The Statistics
It’s shocking to hear, but fire and rescue services attended 27,202 “dwelling fires” in 2022 alone, 73% of which were in houses, bungalows and converted flats, and 27% in purpose-built flats and maisonettes.
Devastatingly, 216 people passed of fire-related fatalities in dwelling fires, with the most common causes of house fires in the UK being:
- Cooking appliances (48.3%)
- Other electrical devices (12.8%)
- Electrical distribution faults (11.9%)
- Materials used by smokers (7%)
So, how can you help to prevent fires in your rental properties?
The Importance of Fire Safety for Landlords and Real Estate Agents – Your Responsibilities
When it comes to fire safety, as a landlord you carry significant legal responsibilities.
Understanding and fulfilling these responsibilities is not only crucial for the wellbeing of your tenants, but also to protect yourself from potentially severe legal consequences.
This handy summary from the Government’s private renting page outlines the bare minimum safety precautions you should follow to protect your property and tenants:
|Gas Safety||Make sure any gas equipment you supply is safely installed and maintained by a Gas Safe registered engineer|
|Have a registered engineer do an annual gas safety check on each appliance and flue|
|Give tenants a copy of the gas safety check record before they move in, or within 28 days of the check|
|Electrical Safety||Ensure all sockets and light fittings are safe|
|Ensure all of the appliances you’ve supplied are safe (ovens, kettles, etc)|
|Fire Safety||Follow safety regulations at all times|
|Provide a smoke alarm on each storey and a carbon monoxide alarm in any room with a solid fuel burning appliance (for example a coal fire or wood burning stove)|
|Provide and ensure access to escape routes at all times|
|Ensure any supplied furniture and furnishings are fire safe|
|Provide fire alarms and extinguishers if the property is a large house in multiple occupation (HMO)|
But we’re not about bare minimum at Vibrant. So let’s dig a little deeper:
Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarms
Statistics reveal that the leading cause of fatalities in fire incidents during 2018-19 was the inhalation of gas or smoke. In England alone, during 2020/2021 there was a 28% failure rate of smoke alarms (failed to operate or were not present), and this rate rises to 39% in Scotland and even further to half of all fires (50%) in Wales.
And when it comes to carbon monoxide, around 200 people each year in England and Wales are seriously injured, with a similar number treated each year from accidental poisoning.
So it’s no surprise that landlords must now have at least one operational smoke alarm installed on each floor of their rental properties, plus a carbon monoxide alarm if there is a solid fuel burning appliance present in any room (like a boiler, cooker, open fireplace or decorative stove).
These alarms must be in proper working order at the start of each new tenancy, and you should actively encourage tenants to conduct monthly alarm checks.
TOP TIP: Make testing of smoke and carbon monoxide alarms part of your routine property inspections.
While meeting the legal requirements is essential, the London Fire Brigade goes the extra mile by strongly recommending the inclusion of an additional heat detector in the kitchen, and smoke alarms in the lounge and hallway of individual flats and houses.
Access to Escape Routes
If there is a fire, can your tenants get out safely?
It’s your responsibility to provide tenants with a secure and reliable means of escape – either external, such as a stairway fixed to the sides of the building, or internal. They should be easily accessible from every floor and room within the property, and tenants should be made aware of the necessary steps to take during an emergency.
Emergency lighting should be installed along the escape route, and the floors and walls surrounding the escape routes should be constructed using fire-resistant materials.
When it comes to houses in multiple occupation (HMOs), the regulations become tighter as they tend to be larger and potentially pose greater challenges for tenants to escape from. We advise having a thorough assessment conducted by an experienced fire risk assessor for peace of mind that all necessary precautions are in place.
Furniture and Furnishings
If you provide furniture in your rented property, it’s probably about time you checked it meets fire safety standards.
Furniture and furnishings should be made from fire-resistant materials – this information will be on the manufacturer’s label.
Mattresses, bed bases, pillows, cushions and bed covers aren’t included, and you’re not responsible for tenant-owned furniture and appliances – anything the tenant brings inside the property is their own responsibility.
While fire extinguishers are only mandatory in houses in multiple occupation (HMOs), we’d always recommend you consider providing them in all property types.
In HMOs, it is advised to have at least one fire extinguisher per floor, and each kitchen should be equipped with a fire blanket to prevent small fires from escalating.
Like smoke alarms, fire extinguishers should be checked at the start of each new tenancy and undergo periodic inspections to ensure they are in proper working condition and ready for use when needed.
It is a good idea to educate tenants on the proper usage of fire extinguishers and blankets, as using the wrong type of extinguisher can potentially worsen the situation.
Fire Risk Assessments
Periodic fire risk assessments are not only a legal requirement for many rental properties but also a recommended best practice across the board.
These reports determine what needs to be done in a rental property to reduce the fire risk, and look as factors such as:
- location of smoke detectors, fire blankets and extinguishers
- escape routes out of the building
- fire resistance of doors
- potential fire hazards (such as flammable furniture and combustible storage)
As time goes by, the condition of appliances and electrical systems may change, introducing new risks or exacerbating existing ones.
Although the law doesn’t define how often your fire risk assessment should be reviewed (they just state “regularly”), we recommend a yearly check to ensure that it remains accurate and up to date
How to Find a Competent Fire Risk Assessor
While there is no mandated approach to conducting fire risk assessments, it is worth highlighting that many fire and rescue services offer complimentary home visits as part of their ‘Safe and Well’ initiative.
You can also carry out a fire risk assessment yourself (unlike the Gas Safety Check), and you can find checklists online to ensure you cover all bases.
However, if you are unsure, or would rather a professional carry out the job on your behalf, get in touch with our team to book an assessment.
What does a fire risk assessment include?
The risk assessment process involves an inspection of the premises to identify potential fire hazards, to ensure adequate measures to stop fires starting, and that adequate fire protection measures are in place to protect everyone in the building.
The five-step process is considers:
|1||Fire Hazards||A fire hazard is anything that can start a fire, such as ignition sources or combustible materials.||Electrical equipment
|2||People at Risk||Identify anyone who may be at greater risk should a fire break out.||Number of people
|3||Evaluate and Act||How easy would it be to escape from the property should a fire break out?||Number of Floors
Location of Exits
Fire Exit Signs
|4||Record, Plan and Train||Does everyone know what to do in the event of a fire?||Is there a clear plan?|
|5||Review||Your fire risk assessment needs regular review and updating if there are any significant changes.||Have you had a fire or near miss?
Are there any chemicals or dangerous substances being stored?
Fire safety doors
Fire doors are highly effective in containing fires once they erupt, acting as barriers that delay the spread of both fire and hazardous smoke. By doing so, they minimize the extent of damage caused and provide tenants with valuable additional time to evacuate safely.
Currently only HMOs are legally required to have fire doors, but considering kitchen fires are the top cause of residential fires it makes sense to consider installing fire doors in the kitchens of all rental properties as an extra precautionary measure.
Electrical Safety Inspections
The Electrical Safety Standards in the Private Rented Sector (England) Regulations 2020 (what a mouthful!) require landlords to have the electrical installations in their properties inspected and tested by a qualified and competent person at least every 5 years. A copy of the report must be provided to tenants, and to the local authority if requested.
This means that all landlords now must do what good landlords already do: make sure the electrical installations in their rented properties are safe.
The Regulations came into force on 1 June 2020 and form part of the Department’s aims to improve safety in all residential premises, particularly in the private rented sector.
What is a “Qualified and Competent Person” and How Do I Find One?
Although there are no compulsory schemes for qualified and competent inspectors and testers to join, the Government suggest seeking guidance from the Electrical Safety Roundtable and Registered Competent Person – Electrical websites.
The most important thing is to require the inspector you choose to sign a checklist which certifies their competence, experience, insurance, and qualifications.
As the leading supplier of residential property services, we complete thousands of inspections each year up and down the UK, providing Electrical Installation Condition Reports within 2 days of instruction.
What will be inspected and tested?
The regulations don’t require electrical appliances to be tested – only fixed electrical installations like the wiring, socket outlets, light fittings and fuse box. If you have any permanently connected equipment, such as electric showers or extractors, these will also need to be checked.
During the inspection, the tester will determine if:
- any electrical installations are overloaded
- there are any potential electric shock risks and fire hazards
- there is any defective electrical work
- there is a lack of earthing or bonding (which could cause electric shocks)
Although portable appliance testing (PAT) isn’t compulsory, it is recommended if electrical appliances of any kind are provided in the rental property.
TOP TIP: Warn tenants about the hazards of overloading sockets with extension leads!
Gas Safety Checks
1998 marked the implementation of the Gas Safety (Installation and Use) Regulations, a crucial framework outlining the legal obligations for landlords and agents concerning gas safety.
These comprehensive regulations encompass each facet of gas installations and appliances within rented properties, with the overarching mission to proactively prevent gas-related incidents, ranging from leaks and carbon monoxide poisoning to catastrophic explosions.
Within these regulations, landlords and agents bear the responsibility to ensure the safety of all gas fittings, flues, and appliances provided in their rental properties. This includes meticulous attention to proper installation procedures, regular maintenance routines, and the essential requirement of conducting annual safety checks.
Such checks must be conducted exclusively by Gas Safe registered engineers, who possess the expertise and qualifications to assess and certify the safety of gas installations.
What is a Gas Safety Certificate?
And why does it have so many names?
A gas safety certificate (with various names over the years, such as CP12 certificate, CORGI certificate, landlord gas safety record…) is proof that you have achieved the legal requirement to test the safety of the gas appliances at your property.
All of the names mean the same thing (don’t panic, you don’t need multiple!) – they simply reflect whoever the governing body were at the time.
You must give your tenants a copy of the gas safety check record before they move in (or within 28 days of the check).
What does a Gas Safe check include?
A Gas Safety check usually takes around half an hour (depending on the size of the property and number of appliances).TOP TIP: if your property has a gas meter key, make sure there is enough credit to keep any gas appliances working during the checks!
Your Gas Safe registered engineer will check:
- that equipment is operating at the correct pressure
- the appliances are combusting gas normally
- that there is sufficient air supply to the equipment
- that flues and exhausts are clearing fumes safely and without leaks
- that all appliances are operating as they are designed to
and your certificate will include:
- the name, ID number and signature of the Gas Safe registered engineer
- the ate of the inspection
- your name and address (as the registered landlord or letting agent)
- the address of the property
- the location and details about each and every piece of equipment tested
- all issues and any action needed to remedy them
- confirmation from the engineer that the check was completed properly, in compliance with legislation
- the date of the next scheduled gas safety check (typically one year from the date of issue)
How much does a Gas Safety check cost?
Unfortunately, there isn’t a set price for safety checks, so we’d suggest seeking a few quotes to see how they vary in your area.
They usually cost anywhere between £60 to £150, which varies depending on the size on your property, number of gas appliances and how long the check will take to complete.
What happens if a problem is detected?
During the inspection, if any issues or potential hazards are identified, the engineer will provide you with expert advice on the necessary steps to rectify them and bring your property up to a safe standard.
It’s then your duty to ensure that the recommended measures and fixes are implemented promptly. Until the repairs are carried out, you must prevent anyone from using the affected appliances to avoid any potential risks.
We highly recommend maintaining a meticulous paper trail throughout the process. Keep a comprehensive record of all gas safety checks conducted, along with any associated work or repairs performed, as this serves as evidence of your compliance with legal requirements. To ensure you have all your bases covered, consider retaining these records for a minimum of two years.
You can find out about our range of gas safety inspections, including Gas Boiler Safety Certificates and Carbon Monoxide Alarms, on our Gas Safety page.
The Importance of Fire Safety for Landlords and Real Estate Agents – Possible Legal Consequences
In the aftermath of the devastating Grenfell tragedy in 2017, the significance of adhering to fire safety regulations has reached new heights in the UK.
The consequences for non-compliance have become more prevalent, and the penalties can be alarmingly steep. In fact, post-Grenfell, the average fine has skyrocketed to £27,519, a staggering 35% higher than the average between 2014 and 2019.
When it comes to fire safety, authorities generally adopt a proactive approach. Fire and rescue services usually offer notice and advice to address any shortcomings in fire safety measures before resorting to fines. Their goal is to ensure that corrective actions are taken to prevent potential hazards and keep occupants safe. However, if the required remedies are not promptly implemented, fines may be imposed.
For minor infractions, fines can amount to as much as £5,000. But for more severe violations, the financial penalties have no upper limit. The gravity of the offense can also lead to additional consequences, including a potential prison sentence of up to two years.
These stringent measures reflect the growing emphasis on fire safety and the commitment to prevent similar tragedies from occurring in the future.
Whether you decide to take on the responsibility yourself, or delegate it to someone else, it’s crucial to have concrete evidence that you’ve taken all reasonable measures to safeguard your property and tenants from fire and smoke damage.
As a landlord, it’s not just about meeting the bare minimum legal obligations. You want to have the peace of mind that in the event of a fire, your tenants will be promptly alerted, giving them time to escape to safety.
To stay informed and up to date, it’s always wise to keep a finger on the pulse of the latest rules and regulations. Don’t hesitate to reach out to your local authority for assistance and advice, as they can provide valuable guidance, helping you ensure that you’re fully compliant with the most current fire safety standards.
At Vibrant, it’s our job to make sure your property is fully compliant – get in touch to find out how we can help.
Don’t let the risk of fire compromise your properties or the safety of those who call them home.