It’s unbearable to think about, but residential fires happen. But what do property managers, landlords and tenants need to do to prevent and in the event of a blaze? We look at the official fire brigade advice.
Modern day life means residential fires are not as often as they used to be. The demise of fossil fuels being used to heat homes, less gas being used and people choosing alternatives to chip pans mean risks have fallen.
Whether that means there is a blasé attitude towards fires in the home is open to question, but one this is for sure, everyone should be aware of the risk of fire. The Grenfell Tower inferno proved that a set of totally unexpected circumstances can lead to a catastrophe.
The inquiry will answer what needs to be done in future to ensure that the risk of tragedy is reduced as much as possible. But what if you’re a tenant or a landlord?
Fire safety in rented homes
If you rent you have rights! Your landlord should make sure that your accommodation meets fire safety standards. They also need to keep you informed of what to do in an emergency, and make evacuation plans available.
What landlords and managers should do
All flat front doors and doors on shared corridors and staircases must be ‘self-closing’ fire doors
These doors must be free to ‘self-close’ properly – not be held or wedged open. They are designed to stop the spread of fire.
There shouldn't be things stored in corridors or staircases – this can block escape routes and stop firefighters doing their job. If there is a fire, clutter in shared areas can feed it and see it spread faster, so it's much safer to keep these areas clear.
Everyone who lives or works in the building needs to know the evacuation plan.
What you need to be aware of
It sounds simple, but there are many things that tenants can do to reduce the risk of fire. The onus isn’t just on your landlord. If they provide what is necessary, such as fire doors, it’s up to every tenant to use them properly. Here are some other areas to consider:
If you live in a block of flats, don't use your balcony as an extra storage space – though it can be handy to have the extra space indoors, balconies packed with flammable items can cause a fire to spread much more quickly.
If you live above a shop, restaurant or other business, take a look at our living above business premises fire safety guide.
Know your escape plan – if there is a fire that isn't inside your flat, it can be much safer to stay put.
Be fire safety aware – there's lots of helpful advice over in our home fire safety section.
Consider a free home fire safety visit from your local brigade as these give you lots of helpful advice on fire safety, and even fit free smoke alarms if you need them.
What do landlords need to know about fire safety?
If you are a landlord you – and your letting or managing agents – have a legal duty to keep the people who rent your property safe from fire through the provisions of the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005.
Fire risk assessment
You have to ensure there is a comprehensive fire risk assessment that details the fire safety provisions that are in the property. This is usually carried out by a professional fire risk assessor and might identify additional measures that should be carried out as appropriate.
Alarms and safe structure
You must also maintain fire detection and the structural protection provided within the building (for example fire resisting and self closing doors) to protect residents and allow them to safely escape from fire or smoke using the corridors and staircases.
The emergency plan
You should also develop an emergency evacuation plan for residents and make sure they know the actions they need to take in the event of an alarm or fire occurring.