Landlord law: Your quick guide to fire safety

Keep your tenants safe by making sure all escape routes and doors are clear and unobstructed.

From £10, at the start of letting; every two to three years for blocks of flats.

By law, all upholstered furniture, beds, mattresses and nursery furniture must have fire safety labels.

You have a duty to take general fire precautions, for example:

  • The escape route must be clear: your tenants shouldn’t need a key to open the front door from inside, and some second-floor bedroom windows should open wide enough to jump out
  • Don’t have something combustible right next to an ignition source, like a boiler above the hob
  • It’s a good idea to supply a kitemarked fire blanket (£10).

Fire safety can be fiendishly complex. There are no hard and fast rules: each property is unique, and you have to look at it as a whole. The best official guidance (mostly in plain English) is the Lacors Fire Safety Guide – google that for the latest copy.

It gets more complicated if you own a share-of-freehold flat. By law you (or the building’s managing agent) must do a fire risk assessment of the common parts every two to three years – that means the shared hallway and stairs of the whole block, even if it’s a Victorian terrace converted into only two flats. You can do this written risk assessment yourself (download a free form at safelincs.co.uk) or pay a fire safety officer from around £100. You also have to reduce or remove the risks. All doors to the escape route, including the internal front door to your flat, must be a 30-minute fire door (from around £200). Check yours for official FD30 labels along the sides. If it’s less than 44mm thick, it’s not a fire door. Keep all passages and stairs out of the building clear of clutter and combustibles, so paint the communal stairway rather than lining it with fabric wallpaper. And don’t allow tenants to leave bikes in the hallway.

» ‘It won’t burst into flames’

One set of tenants dumped a chest of drawers in the communal
hallway for months, despite warnings that they would be charged with
the fire hazard’s removal costs, ‘likely to be in the region of £100–£150
from a private firm’.

The response? ‘It’s a piece of furniture and I can guarantee that it will
not burst into flames. If it goes missing I will report you to the police for
theft, and will charge you with the cost of a new one, likely to be in the
region of £600–£800 from a private supplier.’

Witty as the answer might be, legally it’s wrong.

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