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Fire safety rules in English Private Rented Sector in 2024

Fire exit signs in block of flats fire safety in rental properties

This is an overview of the fire safety rules in place for landlords in England in 2024. I will update this page each time new legislation comes into force.

Last updated: 1 January 2024

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Fire risk assessments for landlords

fire risk assessment graphic

Landlords need to ensure a fire risk assessment is carried out before letting a property.

Here are some useful links: detailed government guidance on fire risk assessments, and advice from the London Fire Brigade.

For something simpler, here’s a link to a straightforward free 5 step checklist on how to do a fire assessment on the Gov website.

Single lets

For single lets, the landlord can do the fire risk assessment if they feel sufficiently competent/knowledgeable. If not, landlords may prefer to arrange for a professional to carry it out.

It’s best practice to carry out the fire risk assessment annually, and before new renters move in.

It’s also good practice to provide a fire extinguisher for the kitchen. Here’s an affiliate link to the good value fire extinguishers I buy from Amazon for my buy to lets.

fire extinguishers for buy to lets

HMOs

There are higher standards for HMOs which are let on a per-room or bedsit basis. To follow the rules, HMO landlords should hire a fire risk assessor and liaise with their local council.

Purpose-built flats

Following the Grenfell fire, the rules for blocks of flats were tightened. See the government guidance on fire safety for purpose-built flats.

Rules for all flats (buildings with two or more sets of domestic premises)

Why The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 applies to flats

Although the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 applies to “non-domestic premises”, it applies to buildings with two or more sets of domestic premises (ie purpose built blocks of flats, converted houses, flats above a shop etc).

Following the Fire Safety Act 2021 (which came into effect on 16 May 2022), the Order has been widened from the common parts to include the following parts of buildings:

  • the building’s structure and external walls and any common parts
  • all doors between the domestic premises and common parts (in other words the doors to individual flats need to be fire doors)
  • the external walls include the doors and windows in those walls, and anything attached to the exterior (including balconies).

What duties does the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 impose?

The responsible person (the freeholder or landlord of the building, or the managing agent or facilities manager) has a legal duty to take “such general fire precautions as may reasonably be required in the circumstances of the case to ensure that the premises are safe” (Article 8).

The responsible person has the following duties in relation to fire safety:

  • Carry out a fire risk assessment, identify what fire precautions need to be made, and make a record of this (Article 9).
  • So far as is reasonably practicable, eliminate or reduce the risks (Article 12).
  • Ensure the building has “appropriate fire-fighting equipment and with fire detectors and alarms” (Article 13).
  • Ensure the routes to emergency exits from premises and the exits themselves are kept clear at all times (eg no bikes, buggies, piles of post in the communal hallway) (Article 14).
  • Establish and give effect to “appropriate procedures”, including safety drills, nominating sufficient “competent persons” with appropriate training to help with the evacuation (Article 15).
  • Ensure the premises and any facilities, equipment and devices are “are maintained in an efficient state, in efficient working order and in good repair” (Article 17).

The responsible person should choose a competent person to carry out the fire risk assessment. Here is a link to advice from the Fire Sector Federation. Regular inspections are key, and if any particular risks are highlighted in the risk assessment (eg wooden balconies where people may have barbecues or smoke), the responsible person will need to pay attention to them.

Here is a link to The Fire Risk Assessment Prioritisation Tool to assess the urgency of a fire risk assessment.

Breach of these duties is a criminal offence, with a fine or up to two years imprisonment and a potential banning order.

What should a landlord do if they’re not the responsible person?

Freeholders (or their managing agents) are usually responsible for fire safety assessments. If the landlord of one or more individual flats is not the responsible person, they should check to see that the fire assessments are in place for the building and common parts. They should also pass on notices from the freeholder to their renters.

Landlords do also need to carry out the usual fire assessments for the flats (as opposed to the common parts), as with any rental property.

Explanation of the fire safety laws which came into effect on 1 October 2023

On 1 October 2023, Phase 3 of the Home Office’s fire safety reform programme came into effect.

This means that Section 156 of the Building Safety Act 2022 is now in force, which requires the responsible persons of a building with two or more sets of domestic premises to provide residents with “relevant fire safety matters” in a format that is easily understood by the residents that includes:

  • the risks to residents of the domestic premises identified by the risk assessment.
  • the preventive and protective measures.
  • the identity of the responsible person.

Fire Safety (England) Regulations 2022

The 2022 Fire Regulations came into force in England on 23 January 2023. The regulations introduced new fire safety requirements for landlords who are the responsible persons of high-rise buildings, or of HMOs who let on a room-only basis. These landlords must provide more information to occupiers on fire door safety and evacuation routes. 

This information should be provided in a clear, easy to understand format to all renters after they move in. It should be kept up to date.

The landlord must display a copy of this information in a conspicuous part of the building. An obvious place is the notice board alongside the contact details in HMOs, and the entrance hall for flats.

For more information, particularly about high-rise blocks of flats, here is comprehensive government guidance on the 2022 Regulations.

Carbon Monoxide alarms

Kidde 5CO Battery Powered Carbon Monoxide Alarm 10 Year Life

New regulations regarding carbon monoxide alarms in the private rented sector came into effect on 1 October 2022. Here’s the official guidance on carbon monoxide alarms from the Government website.

Any room with a fuel burning appliance (e.g. boiler or wood-burning stove) should have a carbon monoxide alarm. It isn’t necessary to have a CO alarm if a fireplace is decorative and has been blocked.

Landlords should install CO alarms according to the manufacturer’s instructions, usually at head height and 1-3 metres away from the fuel-burning source.

Landlords must carry out a check to ensure that the carbon monoxide alarms are in proper working order on the day a new tenancy begins. It’s a good idea for the inventory clerk to do this at the same time as the inventory report. However, do check with the clerk that they will do this and ask them to record it in the inventory report.

Tenants should check the alarms once a year. However, it’s a good idea to ask the gas engineer to do this when they do the gas safety certificate, and to make a note of it.

Landlords are responsible for repairing or replacing any faulty alarms. Given the low cost, it’s easier simply to replace them.

When I install a new CO alarm, I make a note of the expiry date in my electronic calendar. For landlords with large portfolios, the date can be entered into their property management software like Landlord Vision.

Finally, here’s an affiliate link to the Amazon listing of the Kidde carbon monoxide alarm I use for my rental properties. It’s Amazon’s number one best-selling CO alarm.

Smoke alarms

smoke alarm on ceiling with smoke rising to it as if there's a fire in a rental property

New regulations regarding smoke alarms came into effect on 1 October 2022. Landlords must provide at least one smoke alarm on each storey of their properties with living accommodation. For instance, if the cellar or loft are not habitable space, smoke alarms are unnecessary.

Like CO alarms, landlords should follow the manufacturer’s instructions when installing smoke alarms. Landlords should fix smoke alarms to the ceiling in a circulation space, such as a hall or a landing.

Landlords should arrange for the testing of smoke alarms at the start of a tenancy and renters should test them each year. Like CO alarms, it’s a good idea to include this in the inventory report. As with the CO alarms, I ask the gas engineer to check the smoke alarms when they do the gas safety certificate.

Here’s an affiliate link to the Amazon listing of a double pack of the Kidde smoke alarms I put into my buy to lets.

Fire safety rules for HMOs

As the fire safety rules for HMOs are complex, and depend on the exact type of HMO and the results of the fire risk assessment, this is just an overview.

A good resource is the Shelter HMO fire safety guidance. Landlords should contact their local council to check what is in force. Here is an example of local authority HMO fire safety guidance for Cherwell.

Lower-risk HMOs with up to 3-storeys usually have mains-powered, interlinked smoke alarms in corridors and selected risk rooms, and a heat detector in the kitchen. These can often be self-serviced by regular tests and checks and an annual alarm and emergency lighting maintenance.

Large, complex and ‘bedsit’ HMOs are higher-risk properties. They’re likely to need weekly fire alarm tests and visual checks, monthly emergency lighting tests, six-monthly fire alarm services, and an annual emergency lighting service.

>> Related Post: What you need to know about HMO investing

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Fire safety rules for UK private landlords buy to lets picture of fire escape sign and fire escape with woman running through it
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