There are three main pieces of legislation that cover fire safety in rental properties.
The Housing Act 2004
This sets out the requirements for fire safety in residential properties, including:
- shared houses
- houses in multiple occupation (HMO)
- a house rented to an individual or single family
- the common parts of blocks of flats and HMOs.
As a landlord, you may need to obtain a licence to let your property as a HMO.
Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarm (England) Regulations 2015
This sets out the requirement to fit and test smoke alarms and carbon monoxide alarms within the residential accommodation.
The Fire Safety Order
This applies to the common parts of a HMO or blocks of flats. The areas shared with other tenants and/or leaseholders. It also applies to any areas within the building used as a workplace. For example, a room used by a caretaker or concierge.
The Fire Safety Order still applies if you're in building without a landlord and where the leaseholders are responsible for the communal areas.
There is more information for landlords on gov.uk.
- Renting out your property
- Landlord and tenant rights and responsibilities in the private rented sector.
Your local authority will also be able to give you guidance on what you need to do to comply with the Housing Act.
What you need to do to keep your tenants safe
As a landlord, you are responsible for ensuring your rental property is safe for your tenants.
- have at least one working smoke alarm on each floor of the residential accommodation
- have a working carbon monoxide alarm in any room containing a solid fuel-burning appliance (such as an open fire or wood-burning stove)
- check the smoke and carbon monoxide alarms are working before a new tenancy starts
- get gas appliances checked by a registered Gas Safe engineer each year
- ensure any furniture provided meets the required safety standards
- make sure any electrical equipment provided meets the required safety standards
- carry out safety checks on electrical appliances and remove any unsafe ones
- keep a copy of safety certificates so your tenants can verify that gas and electrical appliances have been checked.
We also recommend you install working carbon monoxide in rooms with gas appliances.
If you are responsible for the common areas of a HMO or block of flats, you are also required to comply with the Fire Safety Order alongside the Housing Act.
It is your responsibility to:
- reduce the likelihood of fire
- limit the spread of fire
- ensure people will know about a fire and can escape.
The Fire Safety Order applies to the common parts of a building that might be shared between different residents.
Shared areas could include:
- reception areas or lobbies
- car parks
- shared living areas such as kitchens
- laundry rooms or bin stores
- residents’ community room
- roof spaces and service risers.
You are also responsible for the external elements of the building (e.g. cladding, balconies and windows) to prevent external fire spread
If you fail to meet the legal requirements then we can take enforcement action against you.
What you need to do in shared areas of a property
If you’re the responsible person for a property – you are the one responsible for keeping your residents as safe as possible from fire.
To comply with the law you will need to:
- carry out a fire risk assessment for each property you rent out and review it regularly (we recommend at least once a year)
- put in place appropriate fire safety measures and maintain them
- put in place an appropriate evacuation plan
- ensure those on the premises know what to do in the event of a fire or on hearing an alarm
- provide fire safety information to residents and fire safety training for staff.
Our guide to fire safety law will give you more guidance on what you need to do.
Fire risk assessment
You need to carry out a fire risk assessment for each property you are responsible for.
A properly conducted fire risk assessment will help you identify the measures which are needed to keep people safe and those that may already be in place. We strongly recommend you appoint a competent person to assist you. See our guidance on how to find a risk assessor.
The assessment should cover all the common parts of a property. This also includes the external walls and structure of the building as well as doors that lead onto shared areas or escape routes, such as the front door of a flat.
The measures you need to put in place will depend on a number of factors such as:
- whether the property is an HMO or purpose-built block of flats
- the number of storeys within the building
- when the property was built or converted.
- whether there is more than one escape route.
We strongly recommend you refer to current guidance suitable for your property:
Some properties will require a communal fire alarm system. This would be in addition to smoke detection which is required in the living accommodation.
The type of fire alarm system required will depend on why it is needed. For example:
- automatic smoke detection may be needed to activate the automatic opening of vents which are designed to keep escape routes free of smoke
- an automatic fire detection and warning system may be needed to support an emergency plan which requires full evacuation of the building.
Fire alarm systems must be regularly checked and maintained to ensure they will work when needed. We recommend you keep a record of testing and maintenance.
It is important that the escape routes provide adequate fire protection and allow people to leave the building quickly and safely.
- All doors that lead out onto an escape route should be a fire door. This includes flat entrance doors.
- All stairs and corridors should be kept clear of all furniture and storage. You should remove any items that could burn or get in the way of an escape.
- Pipes or cables should be adequately fire stopped if they pass through walls that form part of the staircase enclosure or escape corridor.
- Fire doors should not be wedged open. Approved hold-open devices linked to a fire alarm system may be provided if necessary.
- All doors to the outside of the building need to be easy to open at all times from the inside.
- If you fit a mortice lock, install one with a thumb turn so the door can be opened from inside without a key. Spare keys can get easily lost.
- Stairs, handrails and floor coverings must be maintained in a usable and safe condition at all times.
- Escape signage should be provided to show alternative escape routes
- Emergency escape lighting should be provided to illuminate escape routes. Some smaller premises may be able to use street or natural light
- Carry out regular checks of your property and ensure emergency escape lighting is regularly checked and maintained. We recommend you keep a record.
All doors that lead out onto the escape route (i.e. a front door of a flat in a block) are required to be a minimum 30-minute fire door and self-closing.
It is important that all fire doors are regularly checked and maintained. We recommend you keep a record.
Assessing your fire doors
- Your fire risk assessments should evaluate the performance of any fire doors on your property. You should keep a record of any certification or evidence around their performance.
- Read further information about replacing flat entrance fire doors and composite fire doors.
- Read our guidance on fire doors.
- You must ensure people know and understand what actions they need to take in the event of a fire occurring or on hearing a fire alarm (including non-English speakers)
- Place fire action signs on the inside of individual resident’s front doors.
- Have fire action signs in corridors (on every level), entrance doors and common areas.
If you use a ‘stay put’ policy you should let your residents know and give them more information about what this means. We have guidance on escape plans which you can direct your residents to.
- Do not allow rubbish or storage to be left in the communal areas
- Make sure all outdoor bin areas are tidy and free from anything flammable. Where possible we would recommend locking bin areas and supplying keys to residents.
- Carry out regular checks of your property.
- For further information see our guidance on how to prevent arson.
Introduce a smoking policy on the property. You could create a designated smoking area away from the building for residents to use.
Tenants can play a key role in keeping themselves and others within the building safe.
These are some suggestions for how you can communicate with your residents about fire safety.
- Hold a regular residents meeting to discuss fire safety issues, as well as other items and concerns.
- Write to each individual resident. You can tell them about the fire safety measures in place, what they are responsible for and ask them to take note of the fire signs around your building.
- Display notices which tell people how to report defects, what to do in the event of a fire or on hearing a fire alarm, and clearly explain your fire safety policies e.g. smoking policy or use of the common areas.
Safety considerations for high rise buildings
If you manage or own a high rise building, you may need to make additional considerations for the safety of your tenants.
If your building has cladding on you will need to include this as part of your risk assessment. This should also include any insulation and wall fixing systems to make sure they won’t contribute to a fire spreading.
For current Government advice on external wall systems, aluminium composite material panels (ACM), high-pressure laminate panels (HPL) and smoke control systems see:
Smoke control plays an important part in protecting means of escape in residential buildings in the event of a fire.
Smoke control systems are provided to protect escape routes and the staircases in the event of a fire, but they may also provide some protection to the adjacent lobby or corridor.
Your fire risk assessment should assess the suitability of the smoke control system and include details on how the system is maintained.
For more information about smoke control systems see building safety advice for building owners.
Fire compartmentation is designed to prevent or delay the spread of fire and smoke from one space in a building to another. This is achieved through the provision of fire-resisting walls and floors which create a fire barrier.
Fire risk assessments should adequately address the suitability of compartmentation to support an effective evacuation strategy. Where there is doubt, a compartmentation survey by a suitable competent person should be carried out.
When assessing these types of premises, it’s suggested, where possible, a more intrusive inspection is undertaken to validate the findings of the risk assessment. Grenfell and other fires have shown that compartmentation can be breached externally as well as internally and this should be a consideration.