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Fire safety rules in English private rented sector in 2023

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 2023. I will update this page each time new legislation comes into force.

Last updated: 19 March 2023

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Fire risk assessments

fire risk assessment graphic

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

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

Single lets

For single lets, the fire risk assessment can be done by the landlord 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 a link to buy Amazon’s number one best selling home fire extinguisher.

HMOs

There are higher standards for HMOs let on a per-room or bedsit basis. Landlords of HMOs should hire a professional fire risk assessor and liaise with their local council to ensure they are following the correct rules.

Flats

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

Freeholders are usually responsible for fire safety assessments for the common parts of blocks of flats. However, landlords should check to see this is in place, and pass on notices from the freeholder to their renters.

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 fire place is decorative and has been blocked.

Landlords should follow the alarm manufacturer’s instructions for installing the CO alarm, usually at head height 1-3 meters 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. This is typically done 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.

For my properties, I buy the Amazon #1 best selling Kidde carbon monoxide alarm with a battery that lasts 10 years – here’s the Amazon link. It’s very good value and is easy to install. I make a note of the expiry date in my electronic calendar. For landlords with large portfolios, the date can be entered in their property management software.

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 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 not necessary.

As with CO alarms, landlords should follow the individual manufacturer’s instructions when installing smoke alarms. However, as a rule of thumb, smoke alarms should be fixed 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 a link to buy a single Kidde 10 year life sealed battery smoke alarm from Amazon, and this link is for a Kidde pack of two. These are battery-powered and are suitable for single lets and serviced accommodation.

The rules for HMOs

Student sharers in an HMO eating pizza

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.

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 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 along side 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.

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