Recovery Fire Safety - The Landlord’s Responsibilities under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005

The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 (“FSO”) introduced fire safety duties in respect of common areas of Houses of Multiple Occupation (“HMO”)s, flats and maisonettes.  The duties are placed on the “Responsible Person” (being defined as “the person who has control of the premises in connection with the carrying on of a trade, business or other undertaking”). In terms of residential rental property this will usually be the landlord although where the landlord is not directly involved in the day-to-day management this may be the managing agent.

The FSO places an obligation on the Responsible Person to ensure as far as reasonably practicable, (by taking “General Fire Precautions”), the safety of All “Relevant Persons” (relevant person is defined as anyone who will be on the premises, those visiting the premises, or anyone who would be affected by any fire at the premises).

General fire precautions Include:

  • Measures to reduce the risk of fire occurring
  • Measures to reduce the spread of any fire through the premises.
  • Measures in relation to the means of escape.
  • Measures to ensure the means of escape can be safely used that all times.
  • Firefighting measures.
  • Means of fire detection and warning.
  • Action to be taken in the event of fire .
  • Mitigating the effects of fire.

Under the provisions of the FSO the Responsible Person must carry out regular fire risk assessments to identify the  fire hazard risks that exist at the premises and what measures have been taken or are  to be taken to minimise the risk.

When carrying out the risk assessment the Responsible Person has to take into account any special risks such as disabled persons, elderly persons, children, or those with special needs and these special risks should be noted. All special risks should be recorded as “significant findings”. Significant findings must be recorded if the premises are licensed as a HMO or if there are five or more people employed by the business as a whole (note all five people do not necessarily need to be employed in the premises which is the subject of the assessment).

The Responsible Person must ensure that any fire prevention and protection works identified in the risk assessment as being necessary, are carried out by a competent person. The Responsible Person must give all the tenants and other Relevant Persons, information on the risks identified by the fire risk assessment and the steps being taken to mitigate these risks. Having taken or installed fire safety measures at the premises the Responsible Person must ensure that these are subject to a proper system of maintenance by a competent person so that they are kept in good working order and repair. It is important to carry out fire risk assessments on a regular basis and keep them up-to-date, although there are no minimum intervals between risk assessments set out in the FSO.

Where the property is let as a single property it will be exempt from FSO even though it may be shared by more than one tenant this is because there are no “common parts” (these being commonly used hallways staircases which are separate from the dwellings being let but which are within the same building as the dwellings).

The provisions of the FSO apply to:

  • Common parts of HMOs (but not shared houses)
  • Common parts of buildings containing flats and maisonettes
  • Common parts of sheltered accommodation

It is important to understand that that the FSO provisions do not apply to individual flats, bedsits and residential units themselves.

The provisions of the FSO are enforced by the Fire and Rescue Authorities (“FRA”). Enforcement actions that can be taken in respect of any failure to comply with FSO are:

  • Serve an Alterations Notice - This requires the responsible person to notify the local authority before making any alterations to the building.  This is because the FRA considers the premises to be high risk or to have the potential of becoming a risk should alterations be made to the building or if there should be a change of use of building.
  • Serve an Enforcement Notice - This notice is served by the FRA to specify the steps required to remedy the failure or failures of the Responsible Person to comply with the FSO provisions properly or at all.
  • Serve a Prohibition Notice - This is a notice whereby the FRA deems that the use of the premises should be prohibited or restricted as the risks identified as being present in the building are deemed by the FRA to be extremely seriousThe power to serve a prohibition notice is the only power within the FSO that can be applied to any or all parts of the premises, including individual units of accommodation. This is distinct from all the other powers of enforcement available within the FSO which can only be applied to the common parts of  the building.

Failure to comply with any duty imposed by the FSO or the requirements of any notice served under the FSO is a criminal offence carries a fine on conviction of between £1000 and £5000.

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