If you’re a landlord who runs a house of multiple occupancy (HMO) with at least three tenants from different households, you have additional responsibilities to consider. Most importantly, you must do what you can to maintain their safety.

A significant area to observe is fire, which can cause harm to your tenants and your property. There are additional fire safety regulations for landlords who own HMOs which are crucial to avoid damage or illegality.

This guide discusses fire safety regulations for HMOs, which includes:

  • Housing Act 2004
  • Furniture and Furnishings (Fire Safety) Regulations 2010
  • Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005
  • Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarm Regulations 2015
  • General HMO safety guidance

Fire safety regulations for HMOs:

The laws you must follow as a landlord cover many areas which contribute to your approach to tenant protection. Though, there are a few key fire safety regulations for HMOs to follow closely.

Housing Act 2004

The first regulation to notice is the Housing Act 2004, which requires landlords to take an active approach to avoid accidents that could cause harm to their tenants.

These measures include ensuring fire escape routes are clear and encouraging your tenants to keep them that way. 

Another responsibility in this regulation is that fire ignition stays apart from fuels. For example, do not keep combustible products near boilers.

You should also make sure that the appliances you provide to tenants are safe and are not likely to contribute to a fire. 

To do that, you can hire an electrician to carry out Portable Appliance Tests (PAT). This checks that each product works correctly and isn’t a danger.

The House Safety 2004 Act also requires you to only provide appliances with a British or European safety mark.

British standards mark — kite shape guarantees the product is safe by the British Standards Institution (BSI).

European standards mark — CE, which shows that the product complies with European Union (EU) safety expectations. 

Furniture and Furnishings (Fire Safety) Regulations 2010

If you provide tenants with a furnished property, the Furniture and Furnishings (Fire Safety) Regulations 2010 are essential to consider. 

This set of rules means you should check the display labels on each product to avoid highly flammable furniture.

Some items will require you to check the packaging before you buy them. These include:

  • Mattresses
  • Pillows
  • Cushions

Even if you check the items you supply before letting tenants move in, take an inventory of everything. If the objects you provided are removed or replaced by tenants, then new items are their responsibility. 

You won’t be accountable for the start of a fire if tenants bring in their hazardous items, which sets one-off.

Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005

A set of fire safety standards for HMOs that helps you avoid accidents is the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005. These rules require you to assess potential fire risks that could occur on the property.

This set of legislation states that to create a risk assessment for your HMO, you need to become a competent person or hire a Fire Risk Assessor. To be a competent person, you need training or experience in fire safety.

The British Safety Council offers courses that you can take to have the proper certification for your risk assessments to be competent.

Risk assessments can include:

  • Identify hazards — find any areas that could ignite or fuel a fire (e.g. a gas stove).
  • People at risk — assess which people are the most at risk (e.g. bedroom above the kitchen).
  • Evaluate — remove or reduce the risks from the hazards (e.g. switch to an electric stove).
  • Record — must record each action to follow your HMO licence.
  • Review — routinely check the dangers of the property and see if the assessments need updating.

As a landlord who owns an HMO, you likely have an HMO licence that lasts five years and is available through the UK Government. It allows you to run your HMO legally and ensures your local council knows its operating.

Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarm Regulations 2015

Follow fire safety regulations for HMOs, which focus on the required detecting systems you need to protect tenants. One set of rules is the Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarm Regulations 2015, which sets out a few points to follow.

On rental properties, you must fit smoke alarms on each storey. You should test them on the first day of a new tenancy and make sure you record it. If there are any faulty alarms, you must put in new detectors.

You are only legally required to install carbon monoxide alarms if the property has fuel-burning combustion appliances (e.g. coal fire). 

You can also get a qualified engineer to check your alarms to ensure they are correctly installed and prove you’ve had expert assurance.

General HMO safety guidance

In addition to the fire safety regulations for HMOs, the UK Government maintains that you must provide these properties with fire extinguishers alongside detectors.

You should provide one extinguisher per floor and one fire blanket for each kitchen on the property. Like the alarms, you should check the equipment at the beginning of the tenancy and routinely monitor them during inspections. 

HMOs are also legally required to have fire doors that can slow the spread of fire and contain toxic smoke. Many fires begin in the kitchen, so consider the use of fire doors near those spaces.

Another cause of fires is indoor smoking. Although it is not against the law, you can refuse to permit it in your tenancy agreement. If you ask tenants not to smoke inside, it might mean you protect the other tenants from fire risk.

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