A guide to fire risk assessments for landlords

If you own a rental property, you need to make sure it is as safe as possible for your tenants. Fire can be devastating, not only causing a loss of possessions but also loss of life.

In this guide, we will look at your responsibilities, and how to carry out a fire risk assessment.

A guide to fire risk assessments for landlords

What is a fire risk assessment?

A fire risk assessment is a report carried out to determine what needs to be done in a rental property to reduce fire risk. It also looks at what needs to be done to ensure tenants can safely get out of the building if a fire breaks out.

The assessment looks at factors including:

  • The location of smoke detectors, fire blankets and extinguishers
  • Escape routes out of the building
  • The fire resistance of doors
  • Potential fire hazards (for example, flammable furniture and combustible storage)

An assessment is a legal requirement for all rental properties. If you have five or more occupants, your fire risk assessment must be written down.

What are the penalties?

As a landlord, you are responsible for the safety of your tenants in line with the Housing Act (2004) and the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order (2005).

If you are found guilty of endangering the life of your tenants, you could not only be liable for a fine or prison sentence, but you could also be banned from letting out properties in the future.

There are many examples of landlords being prosecuted for endangering their tenants.

In October 2020 a landlord with a £30m rental portfolio was fined for failing to carry out improvements to a block of flats he owned. Inspections uncovered fire alarms and smoke detectors that did not work, unusable fire escape routes and broken air venting systems.

The landlord was given a suspended prison sentence and fined £80,000 plus costs.

Do I need to get a fire risk assessment carried out?

Landlords have a legal duty to carry out a fire risk assessment and to ensure the property meets fire safety standards,

There is no specific document you have to complete – the key focus is on identifying and making improvements.

You are also legally required to have at least one smoke alarm installed on every storey and a carbon monoxide alarm in any room containing a solid fuel-burning appliance (for example, a wood burner).

The laws in regards to smoke alarms in Scottish properties is changing in 2022.

What if I own an HMO?

If you own a house of multiple occupation (HMO), you need to take additional precautions. This is because the fire risk in an HMO is higher, and the people living there are less likely to be acquainted.

For example, fire extinguishers are required on each floor in common areas, and emergency lighting is needed for buildings larger than two storeys. Regulations can vary, so we would recommend checking with your local council.

When applying for an HMO licence with your local council, you will need to provide evidence of a recent fire risk assessment.

Do I have to get someone to carry out a fire safety risk assessment for me?

You can carry out a fire risk assessment yourself. There are lots of checklists available online you can download and use.

However, if you are unsure of what you need to do, or you are too busy to carry one out, we recommend getting a professional to do it on your behalf.

How often do I have to get a fire risk assessment carried out?

There is no legal specification on how often a fire risk assessment needs to be carried out, but it’s recommended you carry one out every year.

We also recommend getting a new assessment done if circumstances change. For example, if there is a fire, a disabled tenant moves in or the layout of the property changes.

What if I run a guest house?

If you run a guest house, holiday home or bed and breakfast, a fire risk assessment is a legal requirement.

As with landlords you will need to have an assessment carried out regularly, and make visitors aware of how to exit the property in case of fire.

Are tenants responsible for fire safety?

Yes – they are responsible for ensuring they don’t create fire hazards. This can include blocking fire escape routes, smoking in the property and ‘daisy-chaining’ extension leads.

If a tenant sees something they think is a potential fire risk, they need to report it to you so you can fix the problem.

They also need to be aware of the fire escape plan for your property.

We recommend including all of this information in your tenancy agreement.

Is there anything else I need to have done in my property?

It is a legal requirement to have electrical installations such as light fittings, circuit breakers and plug sockets tested through EICR. You must have this done every five years.

You can find out more information in our guide to EICR for landlords.

If you own an HMO or have properties in Scotland, you also must get electrical equipment testing (also known as PAT testing) carried out too. If you are in England or Wales, you do not have to get testing done, but it can be a good way of showing your tenants you are keeping them safe.

You can find out more information in our guide to electrical equipment testing for landlords.

Need help with a fire safety risk assessment?

If you don’t have the time to carry out a fire risk assessment or just aren’t quite sure where to begin, we can help.

All our assessors are fully experienced in fire risk assessments and supply reports to landlords across the country.

Contact us today and see how we can help keep you compliant.