A guide to fire risk assessments for landlords and tenants

A guide to fire risk assessments for landlords and tenants

If you own a rental property, you need to make sure it is as safe as possible for your tenants. Fire can be devastating, not only causing a loss of possessions but also loss of life. In this guide, we will look at your responsibilities as a landlord, and how to carry out a fire risk assessment.

What is a fire risk assessment?

A fire risk assessment is a report carried out to determine what needs to be done in a rental property to reduce fire risk. It also looks at what needs to be done to ensure tenants can safely get out of the building if a fire breaks out. The assessment looks at factors including:
  • The location of smoke detectors, fire blankets, and extinguishers
  • Escape routes out of the building
  • The fire resistance of doors
  • Potential fire hazards (for example, flammable furniture and combustible storage)
An assessment is a legal requirement for all rental properties with communal areas. If you have five or more tenants living in your property, your fire risk assessment must be written down.

What are the penalties?

As a landlord, you are responsible for your tenant’s safety in line with the Housing Act (2004) and the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order (2005). If you are found guilty of endangering the life of your tenants, you could not only be liable for a fine or prison sentence, but you could also be banned from letting out properties in the future. In October 2021, a building owner was found guilty of breaching the Fire Safety Order after failing to carry out a fire risk assessment on a flat above a shop. The building caught fire, with two people having to be rescued from the building as they were unable to exit the flat safely. The landlord was sentenced to two months in prison, fined £20,000, and ordered to pay £11,500 prosecution costs.

Which rental properties need a fire risk assessment?

Properties registered as a house in multiple occupation (HMO) must have a fire risk assessment in place. This is because the fire risk in an HMO is higher, and the people living there are less likely to be acquainted, thus less likely to help each other in an emergency. Rental properties that aren’t classified as a ‘single private dwelling’ (i.e. a property rented by the same family or friend group) and have communal living spaces like a living room or kitchen also need a fire risk assessment. Do I need a fire risk assessment?

Are fire risk assessments a law required for flats?

Yes, all blocks of flats must have a fire risk assessment by law. If your flat has more than four residents at any one time, you must have a written record of this fire risk assessment. However, even if you have less than four residents, we still recommend that your fire risk assessment is recorded in writing. Every block of flats must have a ‘responsible person’ who is responsible for fire safety. It is their responsibility to make sure a valid fire risk assessment is carried out, and that common areas like stairwells and corridors stay safe.

Does an HMO need a fire risk assessment?

Yes. If you own an HMO, you also need to take additional precautions against the risk of fire. For example, fire extinguishers are required on each floor in common areas, and emergency lighting is needed for buildings larger than two storeys. Regulations can vary, so we would recommend checking with your local council. When applying for an HMO licence with your local council, you will need to provide evidence of a recent fire risk assessment. Find out about keeping an HMO safe.

Do I have to carry out a fire risk assessment in an unoccupied property?

Yes. This is because the risk of fire is just as likely in empty properties as it is in occupied ones.

Do I have to get someone to carry out a fire safety risk assessment for me?

No – you can carry out a fire risk assessment yourself. There are lots of checklists available online you can download and use, for example, on the gov.uk website. However, if you are unsure of what you need to do, or you are too busy to carry one out, we recommend getting a professional to do it on your behalf.

How often do I have to get a fire risk assessment carried out?

  The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 says any fire risk assessment should be ‘reviewed by the responsible person regularly so as to keep it up to date’. The law doesn’t define what is meant by ‘regularly’ but we recommend you review your fire risk assessment at least once a year, as well as if you circumstances change. How often should fire risk assessments be reviewed?

What if I run a guest house?

If you run a guest house, holiday home, or bed and breakfast, a fire risk assessment is a legal requirement. As with landlords you will need to have an assessment carried out regularly, and make visitors aware of how to exit the property in case of fire.

Are tenants responsible for fire safety?

Yes – tenants are responsible for ensuring they don’t create fire hazards. This can include blocking fire escape routes, smoking in the property, and ‘daisy-chaining’ extension leads. If a tenant sees something they think is a potential fire risk, they need to know how to report it to you so you can fix the problem. They also need to be aware of the fire escape plan for your property. We recommend including all of this information in your tenancy agreement.

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