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Fire Precautions

Landlords have a general duty of care towards tenants which will include ensuring they are not exposed to fire hazards. ‘Fire’ is also one of the 29 hazards identified by the Housing Health and Safety Rating System (see HHSRS) which apply to all properties.

Meanwhile, the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005, which applies to the common areas of houses in multiple occupation and of flats and maisonettes, requires appointment of a “responsible person” (a person who has control over the premises; for example, the manager or owner) who must conduct a fire risk assessment paying particular attention to those at special risk, such as disabled people, those who it is known have special needs, and children. The assessment should help identify risks that can be removed or reduced and to decide the nature and extent of the general fire precautions that are needed. 

The responsible person is charged with making such general fire precautions as may reasonably be required in the circumstances of the case to ensure that the premises are safe. (There are also specialist firms that can fulfil these responsibilities on behalf of landlords).

Further, where a licence is required to let HMO property, a written fire risk assessment will be required as a condition.

The fire resistant properties of any furniture supplied with any rented property are covered by the Furniture and Furnishings (Fire) (Safety) Regulations. These cover:

  • beds: bed bases, headboards, mattresses, pillows
  • sofa beds and futons, and upholstered garden furniture
  • settees, armchairs, dining chairs, upholstered stools
  • cushions, including seat pads, floor cushions and beanbags
  • baby equipment and nursery furniture, including cots and mattresses, playpens, highchairs, prams.

The regulations do not cover tenant’s own furniture, although prudent landlords will include a clause in the tenancy agreement prohibiting tenants from bringing in non-complying items of furniture (and unsafe or untested appliances).

The regulations require that rental accommodation let since 1 January 1997 must contain only furniture and furnishings that meet fire resistance standards as evidenced by a fire resistance label – look for labels headed ‘Carelessness Causes Fire’.

If there should be a fire and it is found that furnishings and furniture were not compliant with the regulations, landlords are likely to find themselves charged with supply of non-compliant furniture, fillings or fabrics in the course of business. If found guilty, the maximum penalty is six months’ imprisonment or a fine of £5,000 – or both.

And the regulations place the onus on the landlord to prove he or she has taken ‘all reasonable steps’ to ensure the furniture supplied to the tenant or tenants is in compliance with their requirements. This means it is wise to keep receipts for new furniture as proof of purchase from reputable retailers.

Trading Standards offices are responsible for enforcing legislation concerning the safety of goods supplied in rented accommodation. This includes the safety of gas and other appliances (and the requirement for annual gas safety certificates) and compliance with the Furniture and Furnishings (Fire) (Safety) Regulations 1988. If in any doubt about the suitability of furniture and furnishings, landlords should consult their local Trading Standards office (go to www.tradingstandards.gov.uk for a list of local offices).

While local housing authorities are responsible, under the Housing Act 2004, for rented property licensing and for administering the HHSRS, Fire and Rescue authorities have the responsibility of enforcing the Fire Safety Order in the common areas of residential accommodation (other than single private dwellings). This means Fire and Rescue  authorities have powers to inspect rented properties and to issue enforcement and prohibition notices where they deem them necessary.

LACORS (the Local Authorities Coordinators of Regulatory Services) has issued guidance on ‘Housing – Fire Safety’ outlining both fire safety requirements and how enforcement is shared between local authorities and fire and safety authorities. This can be downloaded from www.lacors.gov.uk.




The Landlord's Handbook has everything you need to know about being a landlord – go to www.harriman-house.com/thelandlordshandbook to purchase your copy.




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