Fire Safety – What Responsibilities You Have as a HMO Landlord
When you get started as a Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMO) landlord, it’s really important to make sure that you fulfil a few legal obligations.
Firstly, you need to have all of the relevant paperwork in order. That means getting a HMO licence, drawing up tenancy agreements, and perhaps even taking out HMO insurance – and it doesn’t end there.
There are certain legal requirements regarding room sizes and how many occupants you can have in rooms of certain sizes, not to mention legal permissions to make adjustments to the structure of the property.
One element that is legally binding and absolutely obligatory is the fulfilment of fire safety regulations and making sure your HMO property is gas safe.
Here are a few guidelines about the legal requirements for fire safety in HMOs to give you a push in the right direction…
HMO Fire Safety Regulations
There are strict fire safety regulations that must be adhered to. Failing to inform yourself of these duties, or neglecting to carry them out, could have serious legal repercussions in the event of fire.
Ignorance is not an excuse to fall short of Fire Safety for HMO Building requirements, as the consequences could put tenants and emergency responders at risk.
Here are some of the most essential points that you need to know:
- Fire safety is of paramount importance in any HMO property rented out, so you absolutely must ensure that you install and maintain smoke and carbon monoxide alarm systems and obtain all of the relevant fire safety certificates. All HMO alarm systems should be mains-powered and interlinked.
- You must undertake gas safety checks and provide safety certificates for all of the gas appliances in your property to the local authority. You must also send the council an updated gas safety certificate every year to ensure that their records are up to date.
- You cannot undertake the safety checks yourself. You must procure the services of a professional not only to do the gas safety checks, but also to test all of the electrical appliances. You need to have an Electrical Installation Condition Report (EICR) and test certificates.
- You are expected, as the responsible person and HMO landlord, to install fire doors and inform tenants not to obstruct them or keep them open.
- Your HMO landlord responsibilities include marking fire exits and escape routes, as well as leaving tenants clear, visible instructions on what to do in the event of a fire. The instructions should be left in a prominent place, for example on a noticeboard in the communal kitchen.
- All kitchens and any bedrooms with cooking facilities require a wall-mounted fire blanket. This serves to extinguish small pan fires. The blankets should be regularly checked for damage.
- Additionally, your HMO landlord responsibilities entail ensuring that all furniture and furnishing you provide meets fire resistance regulations.
Fire extinguishers are not a legal requirement in HMOs unless the fire risk assessment deems them necessary. That’s because they are often targets of vandalism, and increase the risk of tenants attempting to quench fires without adequate training instead of simply evacuating the building.
The best plan of action in case of fire is always: evacuate, call 999, and stay out.
Fire Risk Assessments
Once you have invested in a HMO property, it will be visited by the local authorities within the first five years.
They will carry out a Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS) risk assessment. If any safety issues are identified such as asbestos, carbon monoxide, or radiation, you will be obliged to rectify them immediately.
If they encounter any causes for concern, your HMO landlord responsibilities oblige you to fix them immediately to bring them up to standard.
Your tenants also have the responsibility to allow you as their HMO landlord to carry out your management duties.
They cannot obstruct you from carrying out maintenance and inspection of the HMO property. They must allow access to any safety checks.
They should also avoid, and be made aware of the risks of, leaving fire doors open, tampering with alarms, or obstructing fire escape routes with furniture or other objects.
Make sure that you leave your tenants clear instructions in writing, with your contact details.
This serves to protect yourself as well as your tenants. In the case of fire provoked by negligence, you need to be able to prove that you made your tenants aware of their responsibilities.
Making Fire Safety a Priority in Your HMO Property
As you can see, the fire safety regulations are quite a complicated matter, with many details and intricacies.
Quite understandably so, as fire can lead to grave consequences for human life, property damage, financial and reputational losses.
It really is more than worthwhile to do your research and put in the legwork before opening up your property to tenants.
HMO fire safety rules are enhanced, with more details and requirements than in single-occupancy properties.
This is because there are more people living together who may not know each other, and therefore there is an increased risk of accidents.
The nature of enforcement varies according to where the property is located, so make sure that you do your research.
If you are in any doubt as to what your HMO landlord responsibilities are, get in touch with our team of friendly, informative experts here at Thornley Groves, who are on hand to advise you.