The recent news that a landlord has been fined a whopping £405,000 for allowing tenants to live in hazardous conditions is a red flag to anybody who rents out a house in multiple occupation.
A total of 28 offences were admitted by the property owner. They included:
> broken smoke detectors
> locks on fire exits that were not fit for purpose
> lack of fire separation and fire protection measures
> poorly made repairs which could excel the spread of fire
Bijan Keshmiri used flats as HMOs to squeeze twelve tenants into his buildings. As well as breaking fire regulations there were issues with lighting and the operation of windows. One of the most shocking offences was doors sealed shut, that prevented escape in case of a fire.
Mike Pearson, a director at Wirral Fire Protection says:
“Although this is an extreme case we regularly see landlords without the necessary skills and knowledge to ensure fire safety in their rented out properties. HMOs are heavily regulated under both The Housing Act and The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order, so make sure you know what you’re doing and if you’re uncertain, seek advice from someone who does.”
Here’s Mikes top tips about areas you need to consider:
You’ll need to protect escape routes so fire doors are an absolute necessity. These are required on all rooms that open onto the escape route and should be fitted with self closers as well as fire and smoke seals. Don’t forget to take measures to ensure escape routes are kept clear of obstructions and not used for storage of any nature.
The requirement to provide an audible warning to all building occupants in the event of fire in a HMO is fundamental to enable a safe and timely evacuation. Landlords often make the mistake of thinking that the purpose of fitting fire doors is to enable tenants to stay put in their rooms. This is not the case. For more guidance on this click here.
Emergency lights must be installed to the requirements of BS 5266 part 1 within all escape routes to provide evacuees with a safe route of passage. Remember a fire will often result in the loss of normal lighting and can you imagine the dangers of having to negotiate a staircase in the dark.
LACORS [Local Authorities Coordinators of Regulatory Services] produce a bespoke government guidance document that covers fire safety requirements in HMOs. This states that in order to provide a facility for extinguishing small fires in their early stages a simple multi-purpose extinguisher is required in the common parts on each floor level. Each property is different, seek professional advice on selecting the most suitable extinguishers for the communal areas in your HMO.
Once your HMO has a suitable life safety package installed your legal obligations don’t end there. Article 17 of the FSO states that all fire precautionary measures must be subject to a suitable system of maintenance. Further recommendations can be found here.
This article is intended for guidance only, not legal advice. Speak to Mike today for advice on your tenanted property.