Opinion: Landlords should educate tenants in fire safety
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The horrific pictures of wildfires destroying homes and livelihoods in Greece, Turkey, California and elsewhere this week remind us of just how destructive and dangerous a conflagration can be – and how devastating for those involved.
Although our own damp squib of a summer means it is unlikely that such a disaster will happen here in Norfolk, we should never forget that fire remains an ever-present danger in the home.
Sadly, domestic blazes do happen, although they are mercifully rare. But this does not mean that fire safety should ever be far from the residential landlord’s mind.
The legal responsibilities on a landlord to ensure that their property is as safe as it can be from fire are rightly onerous.
Electrical safety inspections must be carried out at least every five years, and gas safety checks annually. Smoke alarms must be installed on each storey, and a carbon monoxide detector in any room with a solid fuel burning appliance.
In addition, landlords must ensure that any furniture and furnishings meet fire safety standards, and they are also legally responsible for making sure that tenants have access to a safe and reliable escape route.
These are the legal basics, but it’s a good idea to go beyond those in trying to ensure the safety of your tenants, and indeed your property.
So whilst fire extinguishers and fire blankets are only obligatory in large houses in multiple occupation (HMOs), a well-placed fire blanket in the kitchen (the most common source of domestic fires) could prevent a cooking accident becoming a larger inferno. Fire blankets have the advantage of not needing regular servicing like extinguishers.
Tenants’ own electrical appliances – for which landlords do not have responsibility – are a common cause of fires, so you may want to consider offering your tenant portable appliance testing when they start their tenancy. This does of course involve a small cost and won’t stop tenants introducing new appliances into the home after that, but it could be a small price to pay for peace of mind.
We often see overloaded sockets in rented properties, with multiple appliances plugged into extension leads. You can discourage this by making sure there are sufficient sockets in the first place (especially in older properties which may have been wired up before game consoles, surround sound systems and mobile phone chargers were even dreamt of).
Overloaded sockets are the kind of thing which can be picked up on monitoring visits, and these are a vital part of ensuring that your tenant and your property remain safe.
Of course, adequate landlord insurance is vital. It won’t stop damage from accidental fires, but it will cover the cost of repairs or rebuilds, as well as lost rental income should the property be uninhabitable as a result of a fire.
The best advice I can give is to talk to your tenants and educate them in fire safety. A landlord who is diligent in protecting the safety of their tenants will be regarded by tenants as a positive; it will also have the advantage of minimising the risk to your investment.
Phil Cooper is lettings partner at Arnolds Keys. For more details, visit www.arnoldskeys.com