As a property owner or landlord, there are legal obligations that you must adhere to when it comes to fire prevention and safety in buildings, in order to ensure that the property in question is safe to live or work in. However, it is not as simple as simply fitting a few smoke alarms in a building, as different buildings entail very different fire safety risks that must to be considered.
As a landlord, property owner or dedicated individual, it is crucial to ensure that all bases are covered when it comes to fire prevention, very much in the same way as with other obligations such as EPC certificates and other landlord obligations. A lot of the fire safety legislation in the UK is derived from the Fire Safety Order (FSO), also known as the Regulatory Reform Fire Safety Order 2005.
Fire Safety Requirements
According to government regulations, if you own a property, you will need to consider the following fire safety requirements:
- Ensure that all furnishings and furniture are not easily flammable
- If the building is a large house of multiple occupation (HMO), it is essential that fire extinguishers and fire alarms are fitted in the property
- All escape routes in the building should be easily accessible at all times
- Every storey of the building must be fitted with a smoke alarm
- Any room that has a fuel burning appliance (this includes things such as a wood burning stove) has to have a carbon monoxide alarm fitted. This has become a legal requirement for landlords since 1 October 2015
- Once carbon monoxide alarms have been fitted, landlords must ensure that they are working properly before any new tenants move into the building
- All safety regulations must be adhered to for the property
Fire Risk Assessments
If you are a landlord, it is a legal requirement for you to carry out fire risk assessments on the property in question. These must be carried out thoroughly in all areas of the building, in order to accurately assess any fire hazards that may be applicable and whether any work needs to be carried out in order to alleviate the risk.
How to Complete a Fire Risk Assessment
If you are the owner of a property, you are legally considered to be the ‘responsible person’ for fire safety. You have a duty as the property owner to limit the spread of fire; reducing or removing the likelihood of fire occurring, as well as letting people know their escape options should the worst-case scenario occur.
As a result, you will need to complete the following steps as part of a full fire risk assessment:
- Identify fire hazards: for example, sources of oxygen, fuel and ignition
- Identify people who could be at risk in and around your property in the event of a fire
- Protect people from possible risk and take steps to remove or reduce this risk, such as implementing fire precautions
- For any findings that you encounter during the fire risk assessment, you will need to create a plan of action, which may include preparing an emergency plan or training if needed. It may also include instructing necessary people who need to know the potential risks. ‘Relevant people’ can include those such as residents, contractors, staff and visitors
- Once you have conducted a fire risk assessment, you will need to make sure that reviews are completed on a regular basis, with changes made when and if they are needed
When it comes to completing the fire risk assessment, many property owners choose to have this carried out by a fire safety professional in order to make sure that all potential risks are identified.
What Happens if You Do Not Comply with Fire Safety
If you do not comply with the Fire Safety Order, and are found to be non-compliant by the Fire and Rescue Authority (FRA), there a number of actions that may be carried out as a result. These include the following:
An Alterations notice – This means that the ‘responsible person’ has to inform the FRA of any potential changes to premises in order to ensure that fire safety risks have been considered
An Enforcement Notice – This will be provided by the FRA if the non-compliance is significant. The notice will outline what is required of the ‘responsible person’ in order to ensure compliance, as well as a time frame in order for this work to then be carried out.
A Prohibition Notice – This type of notice is given in the most serious of circumstances that pose a danger to life. Examples of such conditions or situations include the following:
- A very high risk of fire spreading within the property
- Obstructed or restricted escape routes in the building
- An overcrowded building which makes potential escape extremely difficult
- Broken or missing fire alarm systems
Failure to comply with the requirements of these notices could include an unlimited fine for the property owner. If the case is then referred to the Crown Court or Magistrate Court, it could even lead to imprisonment. In addition, it is important to note that asbestos fire insulation, which used to negate a lot of the risk of fire for properties is no longer used, meaning alternative arrangements need to be considered by property owners.