With Fire Door Safety Week running from the 23rd through to the 29th of September, now is a timely reminder for landlords to make sure they are fire door safe aware.
For most of the time, a fire door works just like any other door as a way of getting into and out of a room. Unlike other doors, however, a fire door is specifically designed to be part of a passive fire protection or safety system.
The Fire Door Alliance explains that a fire door is intended to keep any fire within the room in which it started, so protecting the occupants and providing an escape route through which others may leave the burning building.
They play such a potentially important, life-saving function, that fire doors are obligatory in all factories, offices and public buildings.
Perhaps less well appreciated is that fire doors are also required in houses in which there is a habitable room on the second floor – such as in a loft conversion – townhouses of two storeys or more, and in rooms that open into an integral garage. Most important of all, they are also required in flats and Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs).
Fire doors in flats and HMOs
If you are a landlord, you have a general duty to follow the published fire safety regulations that apply to either a purpose-built block of flats or a house converted into flats or used as an HMO.
So that you better understand quite what is involved in complying with these regulations, the organisers of Fire Safety Week have published two factsheets – one on flats and the other on HMOs – outlining how the fire safety regulations impact your premises.
Central to maintaining your responsibilities for fire safety, says the National Landlords’ Association (NLA) – which also sponsors Fire Safety Week – is a thorough fire risk assessment of your let property.
Assessments need to determine what fire risks there are to the property, the level of hazard to your tenants and their visitors, and the measures you need to take to control or at least mitigate those risks. There are strict rules on the installation of smoke alarms and CO2 detectors in many HMOs, but your risk assessment also needs to consider the standard and effectiveness of the fire doors you have fitted.
Bear in mind that, in addition to breaching any licensing conditions and your general responsibilities as a landlord, you may be subject to civil action if you have failed to conduct a fire safety risk assessment or failed to take adequate measure to control or mitigate those risks. Any tenant or visitor subsequently injured or having their property damaged in a fire may hold you liable and sue you for a substantial sum in compensation.
Even if you had the foresight to arrange landlord’s liability indemnity insurance, any settlement may be adversely affected by your failures, regarded as a function of your contributory negligence, and the amount paid out in insurance reduced accordingly.
Landlords might want to take particular attention to Fire Safety Week, therefore. Check the quality, standard and effectiveness of your fire doors – and you may not only help protect the health and safety of your tenants but avoid considerable additional expense.