Fire Safety: Tips To Keep You Safe This Winter
It’s the season to be jolly, but Father Christmas seems unbothered about fire safety. We can’t help but wonder as he plunges down the fiery depths of your chimney if you’ve got Home Emergency Insurance, in case of any stray sparks!
We’re just a few days away from the big day and you’re most likely caught up in the hustle and bustle of shopping or Christmas planning. But have you thought about landlord responsibilities concerning fire safety regulations?
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According to the National Residential Landlords Association, 2019 saw fire rescue services attend nearly 30,000 fires in England, with the majority of incidents caused by misused equipment or faulty appliances.
Whether it’s badly wired fairy lights or electrical shock, fire risks are at their greatest during Christmas. According to the housing association Peabody, fire services tended to more than 2,300 fires on Christmas Day alone in 2019.
Fire Safety for Landlords
Fire safety in a rented property is required by UK law, so landlord responsibilities include installing fire alarms and ensuring they’re in good working order before your tenant moves in.
It’s also important to make sure you have your EICR, it’s a mandatory legal requirement, which ensures your property is fire-safe, with no electrical issues which could spark a fire.
While we’re talking about legal requirements, make sure you have an up-to-date Energy Performance Certificate before advertising their property for tenancy in the UK. It won’t protect your property from fire, but if your appliances are older, they are more likely to not only be less less energy efficient, they could also be a fire hazard. So swapping them out for newer appliances will not only increase your EPC rating, they would ensure you pass your EICR and don’t have to worry about potential electrical fires.
A fire safety certificate for landlords isn’t necessary for residential properties, only for work premises. But there are things that you should keep in mind for your properties:
- Alarms: As GOV.uk reminds us: “Smoke alarms save lives”. As a landlord of a non-HMO (House of Multiple Occupancy), you need to ensure you have an alarm on every floor of your property and you’ll need to test them to make sure they work before your tenant moves in. Once your tenant has moved in, the responsibility falls to them, though we think that you should test them whenever you visit your tenant, to be on the safe side!If your home is a HMO, you don’t need a hard-wired alarm, but this is possibly changing, so you’d do well to consider this now.It’s also worth noting that optical detectors are more sensitive than ionisation for slow burning, smouldering fires (the kind that catches fire easily in foam-filled upholstery). HMO fire regulations also recommend installing a combination of both smoke detectors for optimal security.
- Escape Routes: In the unfortunate event of a fire, ensure everyone in your property knows where the fire escape doors are located and how to escape safely. Letting your tenant know about fire-safety doors and/or escape routes in the building is a good thing to cover on move-in day!
- Fire Extinguishers: It’s worth getting a proper risk assessment on your property, which will let you know if you need a fire extinguisher in your rented property and where they would be best placed. Another great thing to cover on move-in day!
- Gas Safety: You’re legally required to have an annual Gas Safety check to ensure your gas-related appliances are up-to-date. Making sure your gas appliances are safe for your tenants is one of the most important ways you can protect your property from fire.
- Electrical Safety: From April 2021 it’s become mandatory for landlords to obtain an Electrical Installation Condition Report. At Mashroom, we charge a flat rate for EICR wherever the property is located and send a qualified engineer to check up on your property. As with your gas-related appliances, making sure your electrical appliances are safe is another great way to protect your tenant and your home.
Fire Safety Rules for Tenants
The BBC has reported that between December 2018 and January 2019, there were 509 house fires – leaving 91 people injured.
Tenant responsibilities are just as vital as the landlord’s responsibilities, so make sure that they’re also aware of the fire safety regulations for rental properties.
As a landlord, you can tick all the legal safety boxes, but it’s important to make sure that your tenants are being responsible within your property. It’s a good idea to remind your tenants of the following safety tips:
- Heat Hazards: Whether it’s a curling iron or a hair dryer left unattended, heat is a huge fire hazard. Portable heaters pose potential threats, so blankets, decorations, and other furniture and furnishings should be kept at least one metre away from all heat sources. Electrical blankets should be replaced if they’re 10 years and older or if showing wear-and-tear. Make sure they contain the British Standard Kitemark and British Electrotechnical Approvals Board (BEAB) symbol on the label.
- Candles: Scented candles are not only a go-to gift this time of year, they’re also a cosy addition to your decor. But they’re also a hazard when not dealt with safely. Candles should also be placed on heat-resistant surfaces, visibly in sight and kept well out of the way of animals and infants. Battery operated candles can warm up your atmosphere just as much as traditional candles, and if you do ever experience a power failure, these back-up operated lights are a much safer option.
- Fireplaces: Chestnuts roasting on an open fire may keep Jack Frost from nipping at your nose, but they can be a hazard if not cared for properly. A fire guard should always be kept in front of a burning fire, to prevent sparks or embers hitting soft furnishings because items such as clothing or rugs can catch fire easily. The flue also needs to be well cared for and regularly swept to ensure that it’s performing properly and releasing the fumes as it should.
- Christmas Lights: Even the most innocent of decorations can have truly frightening effects. The National Accident Helpline has recorded that over 20,000 electrical fires occur in the UK each year. Never place lights or bulbs near curtains and use extension cords wisely, making sure not to overload those sockets. Set a timer for outdoor lights to shut off by bedtime. And if you own a thatched roof, remember these are always prone to fire risks, so keep your lights far from them. It’s also important to have quality lights – all lights should conform to the British Standard, and carry the British Safety Standard sign. Ditch any frayed or worn out lights – including those with missing bulbs that create a dangerous hazard.
- Trees: You may be rocking around the Christmas tree, but did you know a dried-out evergreen is like a bonfire waiting to happen? Research by Property Reporter has shown that 49% of people who buy Christmas trees never check when they were cut. The Fire Service advises that you ensure your tree has been freshly cut whilst purchasing, as dried pine needles can set fires ablaze with Christmas lights strung across it. Water your tree daily if you do opt for a real tree.
- Gas Safety: If you’re celebrating with spirits and alcohol this season, make sure to take extra care if you’re drinking while cooking. Many fires begin in the kitchen so never leave cooking unattended and make sure tea towels are kept far away from open fire gas cooktops.
While fire safety is often a lot of common sense, here is a reminder of the top most common causes of house fires for you to keep in mind, obtained by GOV.uk in 2019/20:
Cooking appliances: 12,295
Smokers’ materials: 1,796
Other electrical appliances: 3,145
Electrical distribution: 3,081
Space heating appliances: 778
Central and water heating appliances: 256
Cigarette lighters: 192
Blowlamps, welding and cutting equipment: 116
Other / Unspecified: 2,857
We don’t know what the future holds, but we can always plan for the best. Consider protecting your property with Home Emergency Insurance to give you that peace of mind should any unforeseen circumstances occur.
Disastrous damages like gas failure and electrical faults are highly unpredictable, so having comprehensive cover in place will give you that peace of mind even if the unexpected happens whilst you’re away on your Christmas holiday.
Be safe, and have a Merry Christmas from Mashroom!