Research has shown that the risk of death from fire in some types of HMO is greater than in single occupancy properties, highlighting the need for adequate fire precautions. ENTEC Limited gathered statistics which show that in houses that are converted into bedsits the risk of death from fire is 1 in 50,000 and in bedsit houses that have three or more storeys this risk jumps to 1 in 18,600. These risks are six times and sixteen times higher than the risk of death from fire in a single occupancy dwelling respectively.
Under the Housing Act 2004 there are no set standards for fire safety as each residence may be unique and pose different risks. Fire precautions are used to stop smoke and fire from spreading in order that the residents have a better chance of escape. These precautions include a protected route (the means of escape in the event of fire), fire separation, fire doors, automatic fire detection, emergency lighting, firefighting equipment and fire safety compliant furniture. Each of these precautions must be considered for HMO’s but note that the precautions used can be dependent on the risk of the property.
Fire Safety and Landlord Safety precautions
PROTECTED ROUTE: This covers the exit from the building in the event of a fire and should always be kept clear to allow easy access to safety. All final exit doors should be able to be opened without a key. The doors, walls, floors and ceilings of the escape route should be made to resist the passage of smoke and fire for half an hour, and any electric or gas meter boxes should be encased in material to resist fire for at least half an hour as well. Any cracks, holes or damage to the plaster in the walls or ceilings of the escape route need to be repaired using material to give the required standard. Certain items should not be allowed in the stairways, such as portable heaters, heaters with naked flames or with bars, fixed heaters with gas canisters, upholstered furniture, storage furniture, coat racks and cooking appliances.
FIRE SEPARATION: All lettings in HMO’s should be separated from one another as well as from the protected route using half hour fire resistance for the walls, floors and ceilings. In HMO’s that have commercial premises attached a one hour fire resistant separation is needed.
FIRE DOORS: Fire doors are needed in high risk HMO’s to prevent the spread of fire onto the protected route. Each letting room and any other rooms opening onto the protected route should be fitted with a fire door which needs to meet certain standards. Fire doors should be half hour fire resistant and must be able to be opened from the inside without the use of a key. They must also be self-closing and fitted with a minimum of three hinges that are made to withstand temperatures of more than 800 degrees centigrade. The gap between the door and the door frame may not be more than 3mm and 8mm underneath the door. Fire doors must never be wedged open.
AUTOMATIC FIRE DETECTION: In large HMO’s (three storeys or more) a full fire alarm system should be installed with a central control panel. Heat detectors should be provided in all kitchens and rooms with cooking facilities, whilst smoke detectors should be provided in all hallways, landings, living rooms and bedrooms. In smaller HMO’s
(two storeys) smoke detectors/alarms should be installed in the hallways, landing and bedrooms and a heat detector should be installed in the kitchen. All heat and smoke detectors should be wired to the mains with a battery back-up. Fire detection alarms must be maintained and checked regularly.
EMERGENCY LIGHTING: Emergency lighting with a battery back-up if the mains electric supply fails is required in HMO’s of three or more storeys. This provides adequate lighting for the occupants to be able to see the escape route from the building. It must be maintained and kept in good working order, and inspected regularly.
FIRE FIGHTING EQUIPMENT: Fire extinguishers are needed so that small fires may be put out and also so that the escape route may be kept passable in the event of a larger fire. Instructions to tenants must be given on the correct way to use the fire extinguishers. Fire extinguishers should be placed on brackets that are about 1 metre from the floor and must comply with BS EN3 and be kept in good working order and serviced once a year. A multi-purpose extinguisher should be placed on each floor in the communal hallway. In a kitchen a carbon dioxide or a dry powder extinguisher should be provided. A fire blanket conforming to standard BS 6575 should be provided in a shared kitchen.
FIRE SAFETY COMPLIANT FURNITURE/FURNISHINGS: Any furniture or furnishings provided must comply with the Furniture and Furnishings Amendment Regulations 1993. This includes upholstered furniture, mattresses, cushions, pillows, seat pads and any upholstered garden furniture.
If you a require a HMO insurance quotation, call Highhouse insurance today and we will be pleased to assist.