Fire door safety - what are a landlord's responsibilities? - Total Landlord Insurance

August 25, 2022
Fire door safety - what are a landlord's responsibilities? - Total Landlord Insurance

When is a door not just a door? We often don’t give fire doors a second glance, but in the event of a fire they really can make the difference between life and death for your tenants. Landlords are legally obliged to provide safe accommodation for their tenants, and although fire doors are only legally required in HMOs, it’s worth considering installing them in any rental property.

As a minimum, it’s advisable to fit fire doors in rooms that are at high risk of fire breaking out, such as kitchens and any room where there are a lot of electrical appliances, an open fire or a log burner. Each year Fire Door Safety Week raises awareness of the importance of fire safety and provides useful information on your legal obligations surrounding fire doors. Your actions could save lives.

What is a fire door?

In a practical sense, a fire door serves the same simple purpose as a regular door, yet in the event of a fire it acts as a crucial safety device in your property. Delaying the spread of both fire and smoke, a fire door can help to give your tenants additional critical time to get to safety in the event of a fire, and can also help to minimise damage to the property by acting as a fire barrier, containing the fire and smoke for an extended period of time*.

Importantly, fire doors also minimise the spread of toxic smoke, which is extremely dangerous, travelling much faster than fire and causing disorientation, lack of visibility and breathing problems. It is this toxic smoke which often results in fatalities long before the fire reaches an occupant.

A certified fire door has been rigorously tested and will have supporting evidence, usually a safety performance certificate to show that it has been tested in accordance with British or European standards. If correctly fitted and maintained, a fire door can withstand smoke and fire for a significantly longer period of time than a regular door.

What do landlords need to know about fire doors?

These are some of the most important things for landlords to know when it comes to fire doors:

  • Both the door and the door frame should be fire resistant for at least 30 minutes, shown by an ‘FD30’ code
  • There should be an intumescent strip that expands to seal the gap between the door and the frame when exposed to heat
  • Hinges, door handles and locks should be bought together as part of the door set
  • A self-closing mechanism should be fitted to all fire doors
  • Fire doors should always be fitted by a competent installer, according to the manufacturer’s instructions
  • Fire doors should be inspected periodically

Remind tenants not to prop open fire doors as this dangerous in the event of a fire, and may also violate the terms of any property licence and invalidate your landlord insurance. You can however fit sound-triggered or hard-wired door retainers, which hold fire doors open but release when a fire alarm is activated.

For comprehensive fire door guidance, including how they work, their design and specification and safety regulations, download the ‘Fire Door Alliance’s Best Practice Guide’.

*fire doors may vary, it is important to check your fire door specification and carry out regular maintenance to ensure that there is no damage leading to a reduction in its performance.

Landlord responsibilities – are you compliant with your fire safety obligations?

Landlords are responsible under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 (FSO) for ensuring the safety of their tenants and making sure that their properties are fire safe. Landlords who fail to meet these obligations can be prosecuted and so it is extremely important to take the safety of your tenants, property and legal obligations extremely seriously.

Under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 (FSO), landlords are also required to carry out periodical risk assessments in the common areas of Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs), flats, maisonettes and sheltered accommodation.

Landlords must also ensure that all tenants have access to an unrestricted escape route at all times. Correctly installed fire doors should help to provide a safe escape route. HMOs require a specific set of fire precautions, including emergency lighting that is able to resist fire, smoke and fumes for long enough for residents to evacuate the property.

HMOs are also required to have at least one fire extinguisher on each floor and at least one fire blanket in each shared kitchen facility. Whilst providing a fire extinguisher is not obligatory in many other residential properties, it is strongly recommended that landlords provide tenants with one. All fire extinguishers should be serviced regularly. The government’s Fire Safety Order (FSO) provides comprehensive detail on all of the regulations that landlords must follow in relation to fire safety.

It is also important that landlords are compliant with smoke and carbon monoxide alarm regulations; this includes – but is not limited to – ensuring that there is at least one smoke alarm installed on every floor of the rental property, that carbon monoxide alarms are present in all rooms with a solid fuel source and that smoke alarms are working on the day that the tenancy begins.

Smoke and carbon monoxide alarms offer another form of defence against fire when coupled with working fire doors and fire extinguishers. Landlords should also be mindful of the types of furniture and furnishings selected for the property. All upholstered furnishings should be made from fire resistant materials. You can check current furnishings by checking the manufacturers’ label to see if it bears the fire safe symbol.

Fire – a rising claim type

According to research conducted by Total Landlord Insurance into ‘10 years of property claims’ data, fire is an increasing trend.

Claim type trends have found that fire claims were on an upward trajectory entering into 2019 after dipping around 2015-17. In addition, fires seem to spike significantly around the winter months. With this in mind, landlords should be especially vigilant in reminding their tenants about fire safety during these months.

For example, landlords may want to find out their tenants’ Christmas plans to make sure that the property is not left unattended for long periods of time and to carry out regular inspections to check that the property’s fire risk is minimised.

As a landlord, fire safety is extremely important and something that should be taken into account when letting out a property. Following government guidance and legislation is imperative for keeping tenants safe and mitigating against the risk of fire within the property. Fire doors significantly contribute to a reduction in fire related deaths and property damage when installed, used and maintained correctly.

If you’d like more information, Fire Door Safety Week runs every  September and their website is full of great advice on which fire doors to buy, how to install them and why they’re so important.

Visit our winter landlord advice page for more information on how you can protect your property from fire and other winter peril. And for everything you need to know about minimising the risk of fire and keeping your tenants safe, read our Ultimate guide to fire safety regulations for landlords, which includes a landlord fire risk assessment template.

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