Property Management

Call of the Week – How to ensure converted flats are fire safe

Call of the week
Victoria Barker
Written by Victoria Barker

This week is Fire Door Safety week and in light of recent events it is no surprise that many landlords want to make sure they are doing enough when it comes to fire safety issues.

This week’s Call of the Week is a common question that members ask our Landlord Advice Team.

A member contacted us recently to ask for advice regarding a property that he had recently bought.

The large Georgian property had been converted into flats.  The conversion had been done at some point in the early 1970s though the member couldn’t be sure exactly when.

He was unclear what fire safety requirements he needed to follow and he was worried as the previous owner had clearly not been keeping up with any of the requirements, based on the total lack of smoke alarms throughout the property.

The adviser starting by advising the member that he could potentially fall foul of a number of different pieces of fire safety legislation, and it was worth taking immediate steps to get everything fixed BEFORE he started letting out the property.

Firstly, the member was advised that all rented properties require a smoke alarm on every inhabited floor, and these alarms must be checked at the start of each tenancy and regularly throughout.

Legally, these alarms can be any type from mains wired to the least expensive battery powered ones, however in practice a council can use additional legislation to force the landlord to make the landlord install hard wired interlinked smoke alarms.

The landlord was advised to get alarms for each flat immediately.

Secondly, the landlord has an obligation to maintain the communal areas under the Fire Safety Order.

We advised him that to do this he should have a fire risk assessment performed by a competent person, making the recommended adjustments to ensure these areas of the property are up to the required standard.

While landlords can do the risk assessment themselves if they are a competent person, the landlord didn’t feel comfortable performing a risk assessment themselves.

We suggested he speak to the local fire brigade to see if they would perform it for him, or had a list of competent people to do the assessment.

Finally, we advised the landlord it was likely his property would be classified as a house in multiple occupancy (HMO), and so there was a strong possibility he required a licence.  The landlord was advised to speak to the council and see if this was required.

As part of his HMO management requirements, the landlord would be required to ensure all fire escape routes were kept free of obstruction, and that all fire fighting equipment were maintained in good working order.

Furthermore, he was told, if a licence is required the council can and will add certain fire safety requirements to the licence and landlords would need to follow these recommendations.

A little overwhelmed by all the information, but happy to have an answer the landlord set off to make his property fire safe.

Rupinder Aujla, LAT manager, said “Fire safety can be daunting for members and we’re happy to help wherever we can with it.”

For more information:

The RLA offer an online Foundation Fire Safety course for landlords who want to learn about basic building regulations and practical tips on fire safety. Until the end of September, this course is just £11.20 for RLA members and £14 for non-members. Also available is a more in-depth classroom course Complete Fire Safety presented by industry expert Tom Bassett.

There are also fire safety guides available to RLA members which can be found on our website here.

About the author

Victoria Barker

Victoria Barker

Victoria is the Communications Officer for the RLA.

She is responsible for producing articles for our Campaigns and News Centre, the weekly E-News newsletter and media review, and creating social media content. She also contributes to our members magazine, Residential Property Investor.

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