How to reduce the likelihood of fire in your rental property

Fire damage claims are among the most expensive that insurers receive. The UK average fire claim value is £19,527 and in London this rises to £51,138.  But more importantly, a fire in your property poses a significant risk to your tenants’ safety and could leave them injured, or even worse.

As a landlord you are legally obliged to provide suitable fire safe accommodation. If you are found to be in breach of your obligations legal action could be taken against you. And in the event that there is a fire in your property and you have not provided suitable fire safe accommodation, the consequences could be even more severe. It is therefore extremely important to take fire safety seriously.

A fire in your property, no matter how big or small, can cause significant damage. It could destroy your furniture or fittings, meaning they need to be replaced. It could render your home uninhabitable or burn it down completely, leaving you saddled with costly and time-consuming repairs. And the responsibility of rehousing your tenants while this takes place.

There are many causes of fires in a property. At Hamilton Fraser Total Landlord Insurance we’ve received claims for fires caused by candles, faulty or unattended appliances, overuse of extension leads, cigarettes, deep fat fryers and portable heaters.

One arson claim involved an estimated £250,000 of repairs. In this instance, the roof of the property collapsed and the first and ground floors were completely burnt out. The entire home had to be rebuilt from the ground up.

 

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How to reduce the likelihood of fire in your rental property

A claim involving a portable heater that was knocked over cost an estimated £16,000. In this instance, it was only the lounge that was affected. But there was so much damage to the ceilings, walls, plasterwork, windows and joinery that the tenants had to be temporarily rehomed. Thankfully, our landlord insurance was able to cover the loss of rent until the tenant could be reinstated.

Whilst landlords must ensure that they meet their fire safety responsibilities and duty of care to their tenants, the responsibility for preventing fires in rented properties falls to tenants as well as landlords. Tenants need to make sure that they use appliances carefully and responsibly and are taking actions to mitigate fire risks throughout the property. Good landlord and tenant communication can help facilitate this.

Landlords should fully outline fire safety measures, such as the importance of carrying out regular smoke alarm tests to their tenants, and advise tenants to get in touch as soon as possible if they are worried about fire safety issues in the property. We recommend providing your tenants with advice and the steps they can take to reduce the risk of fire in the property. Visit our tenant advice page  for further guidance to provide your tenants with this winter.

You can read more in our guide to minimising the risk of fire, which provides useful tips for both landlords and their tenants.

Next, we’ll explore how landlords can reduce the risk of fires, and the fire safety precautions they’re legally obliged to take. Many of these regulations are punishable by fines and even jail time. Regulations are particularly tight around houses in multiple occupation (HMOs) so it is important to understand the specific regulations that apply to your rental property if you are letting an HMO.

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1. Smoke and carbon monoxide alarms

Every floor in a private rented property should be fitted with a working smoke alarm. Landlords should ensure that all smoke alarms are working at the start of each tenancy and encourage tenants to continue to check their alarms on a monthly basis.

It is also a good idea to carry out regular inspections of your rented property, and inspect the smoke and carbon monoxide alarms when you do so. Our guide, ‘How to inspect your property‘ contains lots of advice on carrying out regular inspections.

 

Carbon monoxide alarms should be fitted in any room with a fuel-burning appliance such as a stove or coal fire. Failure to do this could land you with a £5,000 fine.

It’s also worth noting that the fire service offer free home visits as part of their ‘Safe and Well‘ initiative and selected property owners will even be eligible for free fire alarm installations. If you’d rather buy your own, the fire service recommends buying Safelincs fire alarms that come with sealed batteries and a guaranteed ten-year lifespan.

2. Fire extinguishers and blankets

Extinguishers are only obligatory in HMOs but you may wish to provide one regardless of your property type. In HMOs, one fire extinguisher should be provided per floor and one fire blanket should be provided for each kitchen.

Like alarms, extinguishers should be checked at the start of each tenancy and rechecked periodically during inspections.

Cooke and Bern, specialists in fire safety protection says, “It is important to know the unique set of responsibilities when it comes to using a fire extinguisher. In HMOs (Houses in Multiple Occupation) and buildings containing flats, simple multi-purpose fire extinguishers are required on each floor. At the start of each new tenancy, a set of basic advice should be offered in the use of equipment provided.”

“Water mist fire extinguishers are recommended by the British Standard for indoor use, as they can be applied with most fire types. It is a legal requirement that all fire extinguishers are maintained annually. This involves a visual inspection by the landlord or representative following the guidance of the manufacturer. It is also a legal requirement to keep a permanent record of all servicing and maintenance.”

Cooke and Bern, specialists in fire safety protection