A Guide to Fire Safety Regulations for UK Landlords

By 8 min read • March 9, 2023
A stack of small blocks containing fire safety related icons and a hand placing a red block on top that says prevent.

Complying with fire safety regulations is one of the biggest responsibilities landlords have.

All landlords have a duty of care to take reasonable steps to protect their tenants from harm. Ensuring that the property they provide their tenants to live in is fire-safe is a key part of this.

Having a fire break out in a rental property is probably every landlord’s worst nightmare. It could be more likely to happen than you think too. According to fire safety experts Firemark, it is seven times more likely for a fire to break out in privately rented accommodation than in an owner-occupier’s home.

Failure to take adequate precautions and do everything you can to ensure that your rental property is fire safe could have devastating consequences. It’s important to understand your fire safety obligations as a landlord inside out to ensure you are doing your utmost to protect your investment and keep your tenants safe.

In this article, we will explore the laws and regulations surrounding fire safety for landlords in the UK and provide landlords with practical advice on how to minimise the risk of a fire at their rental property.

Why is Landlord Fire Safety so Important?

Without a doubt, taking your fire safety obligations seriously is one of your most important responsibilities as a landlord. You have a duty of care to the tenants living in your property and are legally obliged to ensure that the property you are letting to tenants is fire safe.

Here are our top five reasons why fire safety is so important as a landlord.

Risk to tenant safety – First and foremost, failure to comply with fire safety regulations puts your tenant’s safety at risk and could even endanger their lives. Your tenants have a right to live in a property that is fire safe and free from hazards.

Risk of prosecution – Failure to comply with landlord fire safety laws puts you at risk of prosecution and fines. Landlords found guilty of serious fire safety breaches could even face time behind bars for their offences.

Protect your property – As well as being extremely dangerous to your tenant’s safety, a fire could also cause extensive damage to your property.

Fires incur expenses – Repairing a fire-damaged property could be very expensive. If the damage is extensive or if the property is unsafe, then landlords could also lose rental income during the time that the property is uninhabitable whilst repairs are being carried out.

Maintain your reputation – Landlords that prioritise fire safety are more likely to maintain a good reputation because their tenants will trust them and feel cared for. This can result in more word-of-mouth recommendations and help attract new tenants.

Landlord fire safety laws

The first step to ensuring that your rental property is fire safe is familiarising yourself with the laws surrounding fire safety for landlords.

You can find most of the rules and regulations that govern fire safety for landlords in the following legislation.

A lot to take in? Don’t worry, we will summarise the most important information from these laws next.

General Landlord Fire Safety Regulations

Fire safety rules and regulations vary slightly from one rental property to the next, depending on the size and type of property that is being let.

There are however some fundamental fire safety responsibilities that apply to all landlords of privately rented housing. All landlords should:

  • Install at least one smoke alarm on each storey of the building. According to government stats, you are around 8 times more likely to die in a fire in a home where there are no working smoke alarms.
  • Install a carbon monoxide alarm in every room that contains a solid fuel-burning appliance.
  • Check there is clear access to escape routes.
  • Ensure any furniture and furnishings are fire-resistant and meet safety regulations.
  • Perform regular fire risk assessments and review every two years. Older or larger properties may need reviewing more regularly.

The Importance of Electrical Safety as Part of Fire Safety for Landlords

According to fire safety information on the government’s website, faulty electrics cause around 4,000 fires in homes across the country every year. For this reason, electrical safety also plays a big part in fire safety.

Landlords should:

  • Have electrical installations in their property inspected and tested by a qualified person at least once every five years.
  • Only supply electrical appliances that carry the British Safety Standard sign.
  • Give tenants a copy of the electrical safety report when they move in.
  • Arrange for portable appliance testing (PAT) checks for smaller, portable, electrical appliances. (This is not compulsory but is recommended.)
  • Provide tenants with instructions on how to use electrical equipment safely.

The Importance of Gas Safety as Part of Fire Safety for Landlords

Faulty gas appliances can pose a significant fire risk as gas is highly flammable. A leaky or faulty gas appliance could cause an explosion or fire, which is why complying with gas safety regulations is also very important in reducing the fire risk at a rental property.

Landlords should:

  • Arrange for gas appliances to be checked by a Gas Safe engineer every year.
  • Give tenants a copy of the gas safety certificate when they move in.              
  • Provide tenants with instructions on how to use gas appliances safely.

Fire Safety for HMO Landlords

HMO stands for house in multiple occupation. A property is classed as an HMO if it is being shared by three or more unrelated tenants forming more than one household who are sharing the property’s living spaces, kitchen, and bathroom. Privately rented student houses are often HMOs.

Landlords that let HMOs should be aware that there is an increased risk of a fire breaking out at a house that is in multiple occupation, which is why this type of property is subject to some additional fire safety regulations.

The fire safety regulations relating to HMOs can be found in The Housing Act 2004 and the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005.

According to the law, HMO landlords must:

Carry out fire risk assessments – Either the landlord or a qualified person should carry out a fire risk assessment to identify possible fire hazards and put in place precautions and measures to reduce the risk. Possible hazards could include sources of fuel, sources of ignition, and sources of oxygen. All fire risk assessments should be documented and regularly reviewed.

Fire doors – HMOs are required to have self-closing fire doors installed to help to contain fire and smoke if a fire were to break out in the property. All fire doors should display a clear notice that reads “fire door, keep shut”.

Fire escape windows – Windows that are on an escape route must meet the legal requirements of a fire escape window to allow tenants to safely exit the building through them in the event of an emergency.

Escape routes – HMO landlords must ensure that the property has a clear fire escape route that is signposted and protected by fire doors.

Fire alarms – Fire alarms should be installed in each bedroom, the corridors, and communal areas. The kitchen should also be fitted with a heat fire alarm. Larger HMOs may require an integrated or panel fire alarm system.

Fire extinguishers and fire blankets – All HMOs should be equipped with one fire extinguisher per floor and one fire blanket per kitchen.

HMO Landlords: A Step by Step Guide From Start to Success in 2023
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This free landlord guide will help you to learn the tried and tested ways to make your HMO rental property a success. Written by expert HMO landlord of 50 years, Mary Latham.

Common Causes of Fires and Fire Safety Risk Factors Landlords Should Know

Understanding what the most common causes of fire in rental properties are, allows you to take proactive measures to prevent them from happening and protect your tenants and property.

Some of the most common causes of fire in privately rented housing are kitchen appliances (especially deep fat fryers and chip pans), faulty electrical appliances, misuse of electrical appliances, cigarettes, candles, and electric heaters.

Whilst fires can break out in any type of property and at any time of the year, several factors can put a property at a higher risk.

Three factors that can significantly increase the risk of fire in a rented property are:

The holiday season – The holiday season can cause an increase in fire hazards, including overloaded electrical sockets, fairy lights, candles, and accidents caused by inebriation. In fact, according to the NHS, people are 50% more likely to die in a house fire over Christmas than at any other time of year.

Student tenants – Accommodation being let to students can be more at risk of fire due to their inexperience living alone and operating household appliances safely. Students are also more likely to drink alcohol, smoke, and have parties at the property, all of which can increase the risk of a fire breaking out.

Colder weatherAccording to London Fire, more fires occur when the weather is cold and a third of electrical fires that resulted in a fatality involved heaters. Tenants are even more likely to turn to electric heaters to keep warm during the current cost of living crisis whilst it’s so expensive to switch the central heating on. Other fire hazards during cold weather include open fires, gas heaters, and electric blankets.

How can landlords reduce the risk of fire in their rental property?

Whilst you cannot prevent a fire from breaking out at your rental property, there are steps you can take to significantly reduce the risk of it happening. These include:

Comply with all fire safety rules and regulations for landlords – Fire safety rules and regulations are there to keep your tenants and property safe by minimising risk. It cannot be stressed how important it is to take these responsibilities seriously and, if you can, go above and beyond when it comes to putting in place measures to protect against fire. If you take your fire safety responsibilities seriously, your tenants are more likely to do the same. Whilst fire extinguishers, doors, and blankets may not be a legal requirement outside of HMOs, providing them anyway in smaller properties isn’t a bad idea – you can’t be overprepared in the event of a fire after all!

No smoking policy – Cigarettes are a leading cause of fires in the home. Landlords can easily reduce this risk by implementing a no-smoking policy which they should include within the tenancy agreement and clearly communicate with tenants.

Provide tenants with fire safety advice – One of your best defences against fire is the tenants living in your rental property.  Making sure you’ve done the best you can to equip your tenants with fire safety advice can prevent fires from occurring in the first place and could help to minimise damage or risk to safety in the event of one. It can also help to protect you from liability if a fire does break out.

What Fire Safety Advice Should Landlords Give Their Tenants?

Providing tenants with fire safety advice is a smart way to help minimise the risk of fires starting in the first place. It can also help to give both landlord and tenants peace of mind that everyone knows what to do if a fire were to break out.

Important fire safety advice that landlords should give their tenants includes:

  • Always keep fire escape routes and exits clear.
  • Test the smoke alarm each month to check that it is still working.
  • Don’t overload plug sockets.
  • Never try to dry clothes on electric heaters.
  • Contact the landlord immediately if you have any concerns about any of the gas or electric appliances in the property.
  • Don’t smoke cigarettes indoors.
  • Keep door and window keys somewhere easy for everyone to access.
  • Details of the emergency fire escape route.
  • Keep fire doors closed.
  • How to respond safely if a fire does break out at the property.
  • Information about how to safely use all appliances provided.

I know, that’s a lot of information to take in. Landlords have a lot of responsibilities when it comes to fire safety, and it can be challenging to keep up with all of the regulations and requirements.

The best way to ensure that you keep meeting your fire safety obligations as a landlord is to ensure that you stay informed about any changes or updates to regulations and guidelines, conduct regular fire risk assessments, and keep detailed records of all fire safety measures and maintenance that you carry out.

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