Providing the correct standard of fire safety in rented accommodation can be a tricky issue. Luckily Robert Richards Associates Limited is on hand to help with our quick guide.
In Scotland there must be at least one working smoke alarm on each floor of a property. In addition there must be a smoke detector in any common area or any room which is used for general day to day activities (e.g. lounge/sitting room). Smoke alarms installed after 3 September 2007 must be mains wired, including replacement alarms.
The standards for Houses in Multiple Occupation in Scotland are higher and you should check the requirement with the relevant local authority. In general terms, every HMO must have adequate fire precautions, including provision for:
- detection and giving warning in case of fire;
- escape from the building; and
- fighting fire.
You should carry out a risk assessment, or have one carried out on your behalf, to establish both the risk of fire occurring and the risk to people in the event of fire. This would apply to everyone who may be in the HMO (residents, staff and visitors) and should take adequate account of any people with special needs. Such a risk assessment will show whether the existing fire precautions are adequate and what changes need to be made if not. The risk assessment will be reviewed by officers of the licensing authority or fire authority when inspecting the premises. Guidance on risk assessment and other fire safety matters is contained in ‘Fire Safety – an employer’s guide’. Guidance on risk assessment specifically for HMOs is currently under review.
The main points usually required are:
- mains-powered smoke alarms on a linked circuit, so that if one detects a fire, they all sound to raise the alarm. The number and position of smoke alarms will be determined by the size and layout of the accommodation;
- the escape route from every living room and bedroom should be enclosed by walls with 30 minutes’ fire resistance;
- all fire doors should be self-closing and have 30 minutes’ fire resistance;
- “A” rated extinguishers should be provided on each floor, and a fire blanket in the kitchen.
There may be additional requirements for escape routes depending on the height of the HMO from the ground, or the number of storeys and the distance to be travelled within the HMO to the final exit.
Fire safety equipment must be regularly maintained according to the manufacturer’s recommendations. You should prepare an emergency plan, and all residents and staff must be made aware of what to do in the event of a fire.
Another area which needs to be addressed is the Furniture and Furnishings (Fire Safety) Regulations 1998.
These regulations apply across the UK. If you provide new or second-hand furniture in your property, under section 11 of the Consumer Protection Act 1987 you must ensure that it meets safety standards on fire resistance. This applies to all furniture provided after 1 March 1993 and made after 1950.
Display labels should be attached to all furniture meeting the requirements stating that the item meets the necessary requirements of the 1988 Safety Regulations.
Supplying furniture that does not meet these standards could lead to up to 6 months imprisonment and/or a fine of £5000.
Furthermore, if a fire started in your property and the furnishings were found to be below regulatory standards, you would face serious penalties for contributing to any deaths or injuries.
Contact Robert Richards Associates Limited for further information or if you need any help. Our friendly staff are on hand to offer support and advice for all health and safety matters.