Whether you're planning to rent out a property or you're a tenant, you should be aware of the legal obligations a landlord has concerning fire safety precautions.
Under the Housing Act 2004, landlords are legally required to:
- Ensure there has to be adequate means of escape
- Depending on the size of the property, they may have to fit smoke alarms and fire extinguishing equipment.
Shared flats, hostels, student halls of residence and bedsits
The law is different if you live in/or rent out a House in Multiple Occupation (HMO). You may live in/or rent out a House of Multiple Occupation if:
- At least three people live there
- The people who live there belong to three or more families (if the owner lives there, they and their family are not counted)
- You share a kitchen, bathroom or toilet
The most common types of HMO are shared flats and houses, but they also include:
- Hostels, for homeless people or temporary workers
- Staff accommodation in hotels, hospitals, etc.
- Student halls of residence
- Some types of supported accommodation
If a property is classed as a House of Multiple Occupation, by law the landlord must:
- Make sure that all the gas appliances they provide are maintained in good order and that a Corgi-registered plumber carries out a safety check each year
- Maintain all electrical installations (fixed wiring and so on) and any electrical appliances they provide (cookers, kettles etc) and make sure they are safe to use
- Make sure any furniture and furnishings they provide meet the fire resistance regulations
Questions to consider
If you're a tenant, you need to ask your landlord the following questions and if you're renting out your property, you need to make sure you can answer 'yes' to these questions:
- Has the electrical wiring been checked lately?
- Are sockets, switches, light fittings etc checked every year?
- Is there a regular maintenance programme for gas heaters and appliances?
- Are the chimneys and flues cleaned and checked regularly?
- Is the house registered with the local authority as a House of Multiple Occupation?
For further information on the legal responsibilities of landlords visit www.communities.gov.uk.
If you're a tenant and your landlord refuses to comply
If you're a tenant and your landlord isn't providing adequate fire precautions, the Environmental Health Officer at your local council will be able to advise you on the next steps and can make them comply with the law.
Remember though, never compromise your own safety. Do some checks yourself if your landlord won't - it's your life at risk!