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Fireproofing Rentals: How Should Responsible Landlords React?

by Andy Morley on Feb 20, 2015

Buy to let mortgages is one of the biggest growth markets in UK property at the moment, and the number of people living in rented accommodation is at an all-time high, however not all landlords take their letting responsibilities seriously, particularly with regards to appliance and fire safety.

Every landlord has a duty of care to ensure that the homes they rent are fit for purpose.  Fit for purpose means that not only should the property be structurally sound, but appliances should be regularly checked to ensure they are safe and working, in particular where this relates to electric and gas appliances which should be serviced and checked at least annually by a qualified engineer.

Fire safety legislation also needs to be carefully adhered to and all exits to the property should be clear.  Furnishings and fittings need to be of flame-retardant material and smoke and fire alarms should be fitted, working and tested regularly throughout the building.  Carbon monoxide monitors are also crucial health and safety measures.

Large buildings or that are considered to be of multiple occupations (such as houses let to groups of students or where there are 3 or more tenants made up of different households) are legally obliged to have a fire extinguisher.

But what type of fire extinguisher to buy?  This depends on the type of fire you are trying to guard against.  Different categories of fire extinguishers exist to tackle different problems.  For example, electrical fires (where a powder or Co2 product is required) versus a wood, textiles or paper fire can be put out with ordinary water.  Never try to put out an electrical fire with water as this carries a significant risk of electrocution.

Perhaps the most appropriate ‘general purpose’ fire extinguisher to have in the house would be a powder extinguisher.  These are suitable for Class A (wood, textiles, and paper), Class B (petrol, oil, paint, and tar) and Class C fires (flammable gasses).  The extinguishers come in different sizes and if a property is over more than two stories and is occupied by more than one household, it might make sense to have more than one extinguisher.

However, kitchen fires (often caused by cooking fats such as lard or olive oil) need to be treated with a wet chemical extinguisher or a fire blanket which will smother and put out the fire.  Fire blankets are also useful for fires in small areas such as a bin.  If purchasing a wet chemical extinguisher, buy one that is also considered safe if it is accidentally used on an electrical fire.

Landlord fire safety packs that are designed to deal with most categories of fire can be purchased and it is recommended that you buy one that also includes a first aid kit.

Instructions on how to use fire safety equipment should be displayed alongside the equipment itself, particularly in high-risk areas such as kitchens and utility rooms.

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