Fire safety measures are an important consideration for those in charge of social or rented housing. There are strict guidelines that should be adhered to, dependent on the type of accommodation, and tenants and landlords should be equally aware of these, although the provision of them is the responsibility of the landlord.
There are over 50,000 fires in dwellings across the UK every year, many of which could be prevented if the proper precautions were taken. For people living in rented accommodation, the likelihood of a fire occurring is over seven times higher than those who own their own property. Here are the basics that you need to know.
All gas equipment provided in a rented property or social housing should be safely installed and checked every year. The tenants of the property should be provided with a gas safety check record before they move in and if you have not received this you are within your rights to request it.
The annual check should be kept by the landlord for 2 years and provided to tenants within 28 days of this being carried out. Any unchecked equipment, such as flues and pipework, could be a potential fire hazard in addition to the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning.
Landlords should ensure that any electrical equipment provided with the property, including plug sockets and light fittings, are safe and working properly. Any appliances should carry the CE marking where relevant, which indicates that it complies with the requirements of European law. As a tenant, if you think something is wrong with any of the electrics in the property you should notify the landlord immediately.
In a larger property, also referred to as a house of multiple occupation (HMO), the landlord should an electrical safety check carried out every 5 years by a registered electrician.
Fire safety equipment
All properties, whether rented or social housing, should come with a working smoke alarm on each storey – so if you are renting a house you should have one on all levels. If the property has any sort of coal or wood burning appliance then a carbon monoxide detector should also be fitted.
These must regularly be checked to ensure they are working. If a tenant is unhappy with the smoke alarms present and believes they are insufficient for the property they can report the landlord to the local housing authority. In an HMO fire extinguishers may also need to be provided. At least one extinguisher should be on every floor and if there is a shared kitchen then a fire blanket should be provided. It important to note that fire extinguishers will need to be assessed and checked annually to make sure they are still in fully working order.
There should also be a clear escape fire escape from the property, whether this is external or an internal stairwell that has been specially treated, and any doors leading to this should be fire doors. This will slow or stop the spread of the fire and allow the building to be evacuated quickly and safely, minimizing the danger to human lives. Purpose built flats are usually fitted with 60 minutes of fire resistance between the residences and the route of escape, but it should be at least 30.
Where rented property or social housing is in the form of flats, certain areas should be well signposted for the tenants. Any emergency fire exits or assembly points should be clearly marked and understandable. In certain buildings, such as HMO’s, it may also be a good idea to include fire action signs in certain places so all residents are aware of the correct procedure to follow should a fire occur, and how to keep it to tackle it if needed.
If any furniture is provided with a property it must be fire safe and comply with the Furniture & Furnishing (Fire Safety) Regulations 1988. All soft furnishings should carry a label stating their compliance with these regulations and it is the responsibility of the landlord to make sure all furniture is provided with this.
Tenants can also help to minimize the risk of a fire and should take proper precautions in the property where necessary. Electrical sockets should always be used sensibly and not overloaded, and any electrics that are thought to be faulty should be immediately reported to the landlord.
In addition to this, if non-UK appliances are being used then the correct adaptor should be used at all times with it. If there are electric heaters in the property these should never be used to dry clothes and should be kept unobstructed at all times.
Mobile heaters should be kept a safe distance away from soft furnishings such as curtains and sofas and if there are candles in the property these should be handled carefully and also kept a sensible distance from any soft furnishings. If smoking is permitted in the residence, then tenants should ensure cigarettes are extinguished properly and the contents of ashtrays are checked before they are thrown out.
This article was written my Paul North, head of operations at Fire and Water Supplies. Visit the Fire and Water Supplies website to find out more.