7 things you need to know about fire risk assessments
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There seems to be some confusion or misleading information out there regarding fire risk assessments. Some landlords think that if the property is licensed then they require a fire risk assessment however this is not the case at all. Every property that has a “shared staircase” (common areas) requires a fire risk assessment this also includes holiday lets, B&Bs and guest houses too.
1, A chance visit by a friendly fire officer
The fire service are visiting domestic homes and doing free fire safety checks at the moment and obviously they will call on a property by chance which could be a HMO. Once there they can then do an inspection of the property, they do not need a warrant of any sort – the fire service have more power than the police to enter buildings.
An example could be that one of your tenants is busy making dinner. When they hear the doorbell. They go to the door and find a fire officer standing there. They will introduce themselves show their ID and then explain they are in the area doing fire safety checks and educating people on fire and what to do in the event of fire. They then may ask who lives there etc. The tenant will most probably let the fire officer in as no one sees them as threats or nuances, after all they are good upstanding members of the community and generally people see them as heroes.
Once inside they will do a quick inspection and should it be a HMO or any other property with a shared staircase they will ask who the landlord is and whether they can see their fire risk assessment and fire log book. They will also ask the tenants what information they have been provided with from the landlord a fire should break out.
Example happened on a group I was posting too when the above situation happened to a landlord. A fire officer did a chance visit noticed deficiencies in fire safety found out who the landlord was and consequently checked the rest of their properties. Which cost the landlord money as the fire officer wanted the deficiencies rectified straight away or he would get the tenants removed.
2, You could lose money
Should the inspecting fire officer find insufficient fire safety measures in place he/she could get the tenants removed out of the HMO thus you the landlord losing money.
Or it could be you have had a small fire and your insurance company loss adjuster visits your premises. Should he or she see that your fire risk assessment is insufficient then they could remove the claim which means your insurance is null and void should you have no fire risk assessment in place?
3, You could get a large fine.
There will then be a further investigation and the landlord will be issued with an enforcement notice to get things rectified. Some give 3 months others are more stringent. They could even prosecute the landlords for breaches in the fire safety order and issue fines or worse – prison.
Here is an example of a large £80,000 fine being issued here
4, You feel you can do it yourself and save money
In the Regulatory Reform Fire Safety Order 2005 it states that should you feel that you are competent enough you can do your own however there have been examples of landlords doing their own and consequently getting fines for insufficient fire risk assessments. Here is another example:
1st August 2013, Royal Berkshire Fire and Rescue Service
Defendant – Gurpartap Singh Bhullar, Company Director of Bellforce Developments, owners of a Slough based House of Multiple Occupation
Charged with multiple fire safety failures, including failure to conduct a suitable and sufficient fire risk assessment, failure to take general life precautions for persons sleeping on the premises, failure to provide adequate means of detection and giving warning in the event of a fire.
Bhullar received a fine of £6,750, and Bellforce Developments received a fine of £13,500. Additionally, they were ordered to pay court costs of £21,732.62 to the fire authority.
In this I must be blunt: the average person is not competent enough in fire safety to undertake a fire risk assessment anywhere near adequate for what is required. Indeed I have seven years of fire safety experience and even so I felt that I should be credited under a recognised institute for carrying out fire risk assessments which is the Institute of Fire Safety Managers and Institute of Fire Engineering.
5, I will get my mate to do it he/she knows a bit about fire safety
Would you have an unqualified solicitor represent you in a court of law?
So why “risk” your life or freedom by getting a fire risk assessment done by an unqualified fire risk assessor.A fire risk assessment is a legal requirement under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005.
Can you be sure it was done by a competent person with appropriate qualifications and accreditation?
After all you are putting your lives and freedom in their hands, there are many cowboy companies out there who say they can do fire risk assessments and unfortunately these unscrupulous companies are very busy as they are not doing it correctly, therefore they can charge cheaper rates for their services.
These fire risk assessments are not worth the paper they are written on, there have been many examples of fire risk assessors and owners being prosecuted for incorrect fire measures.
Fire risk assessor prosecuted here
6,You could download a guide from the internet
Again this is possible and many people do this however what if you got something wrong or missed something or disregarded something as you thought not being important – it could come back to haunt you. After all they are just guides. So many businesses try and save money by doing it themselves through downloading guides etc. However most fire service prosecutions always seem to have ‘fire risk assessment not sufficient or correct’.
7, Okay, You now have a sufficient fire risk assessment done. What now?
Well done you have a fire risk assessment done by an accredited fire risk assessor and have been sent the document. What now?
There should be an action plan to follow which you must complete within the time frame using appropriate contractors who know what they are doing.
Most electricians don’t know how to put in fire systems with fire control panels, call points and detectors. They think they do and some will do there best to try and fit them. Unless they have had appropriate fire alarm training with certificates showing this, if not then use a proper fire alarm install company.
Remember whoever you employ to carry out work from the fire risk assessment action plan and should something go wrong you as the ‘Responsible person‘ will be held liable. The same applies to fire doors etc. Make sure your contractors know what they are doing and they have suitable qualifications.
I recently did a fire risk assessment on a HMO and noticed that the newly installed fire doors only had two hinges which should have been three. Things like the above example are extremely important regarding fire doors as they will not hold back the fire or smoke for 30 mins to allow for safe evacuation.
7,Review and Update
The fire safety order states that you should review your fire risk assessment on a regular basis. However with many recent changes to legislation and best practise it is advisable to get this done every 12 months – This will ensure that your property is safe and therefore safeguard your future pension.