Private Rented Team
Dept. for Housing Services
Plymouth City Council
Plymouth PL1 2AA
Fires happen, and when they occur in houses they will cause damage, distress, injury and possibly death. All homes should be reasonably safe for their occupation; the risk of a fire occurring, and the results of that fire, should be minimised.
Both landlords and owner occupiers should ensure that there is adequate fire warning (fire alarm or fire alarm system) for all homes. This should be properly maintained, tested and kept in working order for the emergency when it is needed. A safe means of escape from fire should also be provided; this will usually be the main stairwell, which should be kept free of flammable materials and obstructions. The means of escape should be kept free of smoke and fire to allow occupiers time to leave; this may require physical separation (for example doors or fire doors) to separate this area from rooms where a fire may occur.
Owners should also take steps to minimise the risk of a fire occurring; electrical wiring should be safe with sufficient sockets to prevent overloading. Kitchens should be safely arranged with cookers properly sited. Adequate heating should be installed to minimise the use of portable heaters. Furniture should comply with current fire safety standards.
Occupiers need to be aware of the fire safety precautions in their homes, how to check that they are working and what to do in the event of fire. They must not interfere with the fire precautions provided. Neither should they bring unsafe furniture, appliances or materials into the home.
Most fires occur in kitchens, especially when deep fat frying. However kitchen fires do not usually cause serious injury. The most hazardous fires occur in lounges and bedrooms, and are often caused by smoking and the use of candles. Fires are also associated with incorrectly wired electrical appliances, overloaded sockets, portable heaters and heaters used for drying washing.
Fire safety law
Although there will always be a risk from fire this can be minimised. The Housing Act 2004 sets out the process which assesses the degree of the fire risk in the home. This Act can also be used to demand improvement to fire safety, and applies equally to both owner occupiers and landlords.
Tenants have a legal duty not to damage their accommodation. Disabling fire alarm systems, damaging fire doors and misuse of fire fighting equipment will not only put all occupiers at risk from fire, it may lead to eviction and possible prosecution.
Landlords have a duty of care to their tenants. In some types of housing (for instance flats, shared housing and bedsits) they have other duties.
Landlords and managers of houses in multiple occupation (or HMOs) must comply with the management regulations. In some cases houses in multiple occupation also require a licence and this places further requirements on the owners. More information is available on our houses in multiple occupation (HMO), management of HMOs and licensing pages.
The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 (or RRO) requires the owners of buildings containing flats to risk assess their property, improve them as necessary and then maintain them to the appropriate standard of fire safety. It also applies to many HMOs. The RRO is administered by the Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service.
Further information on fire safety is available in the document "LACORS Housing - Fire Safety Guidance". This book describes the legal requirements for fire safety in detail. It sets out when and how to risk assess (under the RRO). It also describes the standards of fire safety.
Fire safety standards
The Government has published the fire safety book 'LACORS Housing - Fire Safety Guidance' below and describes the standards of fire safety which may be required in a range of housing situations, including single family houses, self contained flats and HMOs.
The guide gives examples of fire safety requirements for different types of housing of 'normal risk' for the form of housing described. Works will be required to a higher standard where there is an increased risk of fire.
The guide does not set prescriptive requirements for works. It describes a standard of fire safety and provides examples of achieving those standards. In most cases there are alternative works that will achieve an equivalent standard. For instance, in some cases more comprehensive fire detection may compensate for a lesser standard of fire separation.
This guidance builds upon previous standards, legislation and good practice from across the country. Generally it is along the same lines as the guidance previously given by Plymouth City Council.
The LACORS guide is mainly concerned with the issues of fire protection, fire warning, means of escape from fire and fire fighting. Frequently works are also required to reduce the risk of fire occurring; owners will also need to ensue that there is adequate fixed heating, safe electrical wiring and there are properly arranged cooking facilities (this list is not exhaustive).