Today a fire risk assessment is deemed an instrumental part of HMO management regulations. And it’s no wonder. Fire safety in general has become particularly important in the wake of the Grenfell Tower tragedy.

Houses in Multiple Occupation (properties with three or more unrelated tenants) are falling under greater scrutiny. To ensure a property meets particular fire safety standards landlords must now ensure they hold a professional fire risk assessment. What’s more, once the fire risk assessment is complete, all high-priority suggestions for improvements must then be carried out in a timely manner. Failure to comply can lead to significant penalties and indeed prosecution.

Fire Risk Assessment – Legislation and Regulations

The idea behind a fire risk assessment is to establish the safety aspects of a property for fire purposes. A trained and  ‘competent person’ is tasked with identifying potential hazards. This will involve deciding if there is any significant risk of danger to life in the event of a real fire. Examples would include establishing if occupants are able to quickly leave the building without having to find their keys. To combat this problem HMO landlords should always provide a safe ‘means of escape’. This will often involve ensuring both windows have fire hinges and all exit doors have ‘thumb turn’ locks.

The best place to start for information on fire safety is the LACoRS Fire Safety Guidance. This can be found here.

The HMO definition

A new definition of a HMO was introduced in 2004 and should be read and understood thoroughly by all landlords. Under the Housing Act (2004), HMO properties have additional responsibilities when compared to individually let properties.  Consequently, it is vital to know whether a property is classed as a HMO or not.

Neglecting fire safety regulations can lead to a serious fine. You can read more online to figure out whether a property qualifies as a HMO or not. If you are unsure at any point, your local housing authority will have all the answers. Your first port of call would be your local planning department.

Properties within the HMO definition may include:

  • Shared houses
  • Bed sits
  • Self-contained flats

Properties that do not fit into the description of a HMO property include:

  • Buildings occupied by a maximum of two households with a single individual each, e.g. a two person flat share.
  • Student halls of residence
  • Religious establishments and care homes
  • Properties owned or managed by a public body, e.g. the NHS

What am I responsible for in a Fire Risk Assessment?

In order to fulfill the requirements of the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order landlords are responsible for a wide range of regulations. These include:

  • Establishing a satisfactory means of escape
  • Ensuring that qualified engineer carry out either a six monthly or annual test on the fire detection system
  • Carrying out monthly fire tests and logging the results of these within a fire log book
  • Ensuring that an annual Portable Appliance Test is carried out by a qualified person
  • Properties built after June 1992 must be fitted with mains operated smoke alarms on each floor
  • Properties built before June 1992 should be fitted with battery-operated smoke alarms on each floor
  • Ensuring all furnishings meet fire resistance regulations
  • Any dangerous appliances are removed from the property

This list is by no means exhaustive. Being a HMO landlord takes dedication to get it right. Fire safety should be a top priority for anybody investing in HMO property.

If you are finding it difficult to keep up with all of the latest regulations we can help. Today we work with man landlords to take the strain away from day to day management of HMO property. Take a look at our Guaranteed Rent service to discover how we work with landlords by visiting us here.