The accidental landlord
LIKE most landlords, I would do everything possible to keep my tenants safe. However, I can’t say hand on heart that I have complied with all the fire safety regulations that apply to one of my properties — because the regulations themselves are so darned confusing.
The property causing me concern is a four-bedroom duplex that was previously let to a group of friends on a single tenancy agreement and is now let to four sharers on individual contracts. It is, therefore, labelled as a house in multiple occupation — an HMO — and as such requires me to take greater fire precautions than if it were let as a single unit.
But what extra fire precautions do I need to take? Obviously I have smoke alarms on both floors, which has been a requirement in all rental properties since October 2015, but I am not sure these are enough both to comply with the law regarding non-licensed HMOs and to give my tenants enough warning in the event of a fire.
I have spent hours trawling the internet for information and poring over official fire safety guidance, but I still can’t work out whether these alarms should be replaced with more expensive mains-operated ones, which avoids the risk of tenants removing or forgetting to replace the batteries. Also, do I need special fire doors, fire alarms and special firefighting equipment such as sprinklers, or at the very least fire extinguishers on both floors? Thinking the local authority would be able to help I gave them a call but they referred me to the local fire service, who told me I’d need to pay for a private company to carry out a fire risk assessment. However, all the firms I contacted told me this was neither a necessity nor a legal requirement for my type of property.
Instead, I downloaded my own fire risk assessment form from the internet and, using the