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A guide to flat fire safety

  • 12, Oct 2020
  • Read time: 5 mins

Landlords have a duty to ensure that their property is safe and compliant with building regulations. Our guide to fire safety will help reassure your tenants and help protect your investment.

Fire extinguisher on the wall in a stairwell of a block of flats.

Who is responsible for fire safety?

As a landlord, it’s part of your legal duties to follow fire safety rules to make sure the property is safe for your tenants. There may be a number of measures you need to take to remove or reduce fire risks as much as possible.

Landlord fire safety measures

These may include checking that enough self-closing fire doors are installed and fire alarms are fitted on each floor – and all are in good working condition. You should inform tenants of fire evacuations plans and mark any exits clearly. Obstructions should also be removed, so corridors and stairs are kept clear.

Fires in the property can be devastating – putting your tenants in danger and risking damage to the structure of your flat. Any repairs might be costly, with claims sometimes exceeding tens of thousands of pounds. This makes it even more important to consider landlord insurance for extra peace of mind. For example, we could cover you for loss of rent if your property becomes unhabitable after a fire.

Preventative measures

As well as putting in fire safety measures in place, like fire alarms, you must also think about gas and electrical safety.

For gas, it’s important to check all appliances have been tested by a qualified engineer. These are usually every 10 to 12 months after the last completed check. Gas pipework, chimneys and flues also have to be maintained – it’s best to check manufacturer guidelines to see how often a service may be needed.

Electrical systems, like plug sockets, light fittings, cookers and kettles, also need to be checked by a qualified person every 5 years. This way, you’ll know if any urgent repairs have to be made to keep your tenants and flat safe.

Check which gas certificates or electrical certificates are required, so you’re complying with the latest safety regulations.

Fire risk assessments

The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order: 2005 states that a fire risk assessment must be carried out in properties occupied for residential or commercial use.

It’s every landlord’s duty to arrange periodic risk assessments, especially in flats. Then, if anything does happen, you can prove that everything possible was done to protect your tenants.

There are 5 steps to a fire risk assessment:

  1. Identify the fire hazards in the flat - These include the potential sources of ignition, fuel and oxygen.
  2. Identify who is at risk from fire - These are the people in the property and surrounding premises. Pay particular attention to those who are especially at risk such as elderly people, those with reduced mobility, small children and anyone with breathing difficulties.
  3. Evaluate and reduce the risk of fire - Assess the risk of a fire starting and the risks it might present people with. Then remove or reduce fire hazards and introduce fire precautions.
  4. Review your fire risk assessment regularly - There is no legal requirement for how often you should conduct an assessment, but a good guideline is to go through a review every 2 years.
  5. Record, plan, inform, instruct and train

    • Record any major findings. Discuss your findings and work with other responsible people to remove and reduce risk

    • Plan out what happens in an emergency and make sure your residents know where to go in the event of a fire

    • Inform and instruct the relevant people

    • Train the relevant people so that they know what to do in the event of a fire and how to minimise the risk on a day-to-day basis

Potential risks

In a residential setting, potential problems are fairly obvious but should never be overlooked.

  • Cigarettes & Candles – If you allow smoking on your property, cigarettes are an obvious danger. Fires started by unextinguished cigarettes or unattended candles are responsible for a huge amount of fires every year. This is why smoke detectors are so important
  • Kitchens – The combination of unattended flames, cooking fats and oils means that kitchens require special attention. Adequate ventilation (which may include installation of extractor fans) is essential. As part of gaining a gas safety certificate, gas appliances must be checked by a qualified engineer every 5 years
  • Appliances – Make sure that all appliances have passed a Portable appliance test to avoid liability should a fire break out due to faulty electronics. To obtain an electrical safety certificate, make sure your electrical appliances are also checked every 5 years
  • Escape – In the event of a fire, it’s vital that all doors leading from the property to the outside are unlockable from the inside without use of a key and remain unobstructed

Remember, our landlord buildings and contents insurance will cover your property against damage caused by a fire.

Fire prevention in flats

Fire doors are a legal requirement in blocks of flats. It’s important that they meet fire safety, sound and accessibility regulations. Read the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order: 2005 for more information.

  • Flat front doors must be self-closing with a 30-minute resistance against fires. They should also be fitted with smoke seals
  • Internal doors don’t need to be fire doors if the flats are on the ground floor or less than 4.5 metres above the ground – so long as tenants have a means of escape, like a terrace or window
  • Using fire-resistant emulsion paint to coat the walls rather than wallpaper could help contain any fires
  • Flats on floors that are higher than 4.5 metres need fire doors between the rooms and hallway leading to the flat entrance
  • Landlords must provide on-site fire-fighting and detection equipment
  • It’s a legal requirement to have one smoke alarm on every floor and a carbon monoxide alarm in any rooms with coal fire or wood-burning appliances
  • Furniture and furnishings must meet Furniture & Furnishings (Fire) (Safety) Regulations 1988. You can check the manufacturer’s guidelines on your furniture for more details

If you have any safety queries, you can contact your local Housing Officer at the Environmental Health Department or your local Fire Brigade.

The Chief Fire Officers also have a home safety scheme called CFOA BlueWatch which provides guidance and useful resources.

Why it's important to follow fire safety rules

As a landlord, you must be able to show that you’ve done everything possible to protect your property and tenants from fire safety risks. Not just the legal minimum. If a fire does happen, you should be confident that the right measures are in place – from fire alarms and fire doors to removal of any potential obstructions.

Our landlord insurance can cover you in the event of damages to your property, loss of rent and home emergencies. It's important to get suitable cover and ensure your property and tenants are properly protected against the unexpected.

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