Flat fire safety

The evidence is all too clear as to what happens when fire safety regulations go unheeded. Read our guide to ensure that your property is up to code and that you have proper safety measures in place.

Flats have been a popular solution to housing demands ever since the 19th century. However, it was the increased need for affordable housing after the Second World War that eventually led to the proliferation of purpose-built tower blocks that now dot the skylines of every city in the UK. No matter what type of flat you own having multiple domestic dwellings within one building as we have discovered in tragic circumstances, also increases the likelihood of fire.

Inadequate fire safety measures and unheeded fire regulations for flats can lead to unspeakable tragedies, stressing the need for landlords and owners to understand fire regulations for flats and ensure that they are strictly adhered to.

Fires in flats mostly occur within individual flats, rather than common areas. These are usually caused by faulty or overloaded electrics, cigarettes, frying pan fires and unattended candles.

Fire risk assessments
As a landlord, you’ll probably qualify as the ‘responsible person’ for your property,  meaning you are legally obligated to carry out a fire risk assessment. The regulations for fire safety in common areas in blocks of flats are outlined in the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order: 2005. Legal obligations for the inside of rented flats are listed in the Housing Act 2004 and the Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarm (England) Regulations 2015. The Local Authorities Co-ordinators of Regulated Services have produced a guide for landlords, managing agents, tenants and any other interested parties on fire safety in flats, which is essential reading.

You can appoint a competent person to perform a fire assessment for you, but it will still be you who is responsible in the case of a fire, not your appointed assessor. There are five 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 flat and surrounding flats and premises. Also pay particular attention to those who are especially at risk, for example the elderly, people with reduced mobility, small children and anyone with breathing difficulties.
  3. Evaluate, remove or reduce and protect from the risk of fire. This means evaluating the risk of a fire starting and the risk to people from that fire, removing or reducing the fire hazards, and the risk to people from fire and protecting by introducing fire precautions.
  4. Record, plan, inform, instruct and train. Record any major findings and action. Discuss your findings and work with other responsible people to remove and reduce risk. Prepare an emergency plan and inform and instruct the relevant people. Provide training to 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.
  5. Review your fire risk assessment regularly. There is no legal requirement for how often you should conduct an assessment or perform reviews but the guidelines recommend a review every two years with a new assessment every four years for low-rise blocks. Higher risk blocks should have a review every year and a new assessment every three years.

Fire prevention methods

Fire doors are a legal requirement in blocks of flats and it is important that they meet regulations for not only fire safety, but also sound, accessibility, ventilation, thermal efficiency and safety glazing. Fire doors in flats come under the regulations covered in the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order: 2005.

Flat front doors, under these fire regulations, must be fire doors with a half-hour resistance and should be fitting with smoke seals and self-closing mechanisms. Internal doors do not need to be fire doors if the flats are on the ground floor or less than 4.5 metres above the ground, providing the habitable rooms have a means of escape, such as a terrace or a window. Flats on floors that are higher than 4.5 metres will need fire doors between the habitable rooms and the hallway that leads to the entrance to the flat.

It is also necessary for landlords to provide suitable fire-fighting and detection equipment on the premises. Since 2015, it is a legal requirement for private landlords to have one smoke alarm on every storey of their premises and a CO2 alarm in any room that has a device that burns solid fuel, such as a coal fire or a wood-burning stove.

 

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