New fire safety advice

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Nationwide lettings specialist Belvoir has updated its advice on fire safety for landlords following a ruling which is expected to come into effect at the end of this year.

At the Local Government Association’s annual Fire Conference, staged earlier this month, Communities Minister Penny Mordaunt announced that the installation of smoke and carbon monoxide alarms in all private and social rented property is to be made compulsory.

The new ruling covers all rented properties in England and Wales.

In Scotland it is already a legal requirement to provide linked ‘hard wired’ smoke alarms on stair landings and in living rooms, along with heat detectors in kitchens area and carbon monoxide alarms wherever there is a gas appliance.

But while the largest majority of residential property landlords in England and Wales already fit fire and smoke alarms it does not apply ‘across the board’.

Dorian Gonsalves, Belvoir’s Commercial Director, says: ‘Many landlords, especially those new to the private rented sector, may not appreciate the detailed, and growing, levels of fire safety legislation governing rental properties.

‘Fire safety considerations and compliance are a critical factor when putting a property up for rental and this has always been a complicated area, with different regulations for different types of properties in different parts of the UK.’

‘Scotland has previously led the way in terms of tightened regulation, but this new ruling, making detectors and smoke alarms compulsory, is a major step forward and should provide clarity for the rest of the UK’s landlord population.’

Paul Cartwright, who owns Belvoir Offices on Palmerston Road in Southsea and on London Road in Waterlooville, says: ‘We advise all of our landlord clients to take professional advice on the fire risk assessment of their properties, because the stakes are too high to do it themselves.

‘Every type of property has its own set of specific fire safety requirements – from bedsits, through to new builds and much more demanding Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs).

‘There is a statutory duty on all landlords of residential property to ensure that gas appliances, pipe work and flues are maintained in a safe condition, with annual inspections and proof of compliance via a Gas Safety certificate.

‘But in addition to the actual fabric of the building there are also product safety requirements covering electrical equipment, plugs, sockets, furniture and furnishing materials,’ adds Paul.

The new ruling on compulsory smoke and carbon monoxide alarms follows years of campaigning by the Chief Fire Officers Association, supported by the British Property Federation.

When it comes into force, around October of this year, it will put an obligation on landlords and their agents to ensure that working detectors are in place at the beginning of each tenancy.

There will also be a requirement for tenants to regularly test the equipment and report any faults.

‘All landlords have a duty of care to their tenants and if they fail to protect them from unacceptable fire risks, they can expect a robust response from fire officers or local housing authorities who will enforce the necessary regulations and prosecute offenders,’ says Paul.

‘If you are a novice landlord it is essential you seek out expert advice from the outset –from your local authority, professional fire safety advisers or from professional and experienced lettings agents such as Belvoir, since we work closely with all of our landlords to help them follow best practice and meet changing legal requirements.’

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