According to Home Office statistics, there is an average of 37,000 residential fires in the UK every year. Leading to around 200 deaths. And costing homeowners and landlords hundreds of thousands of pounds. While it’s impossible to prepare for all eventualities, in many instances the damage caused by these fires could have been avoided with adequate fire protection and prevention strategies, with a significant part of this being to complete a fire risk assessment.
Your fire risk assessments isn’t just a legal requirement. It is the number one means of helping to protect your assets – and the people who use/inhabit them – from the danger of fire. It puts you in control of potentially difficult situations. And it helps to protect you against legal proceedings should the very worst happen.
So, as a landlord, what do you need to know about conducting a fire risk assessment for flats, apartments, or HMOs?
Fire Risk Assessment for Flats and Apartments: A Landlord’s Obligations
Who is responsible for conducting a fire risk assessment?
Just like employers, landlords have a number of legal requirements to adhere to in relation to fire safety. And this includes conducting a thorough and regular fire risk assessment. It is your duty to assess any potential fire hazards in all areas of the property. And any people who might be at risk.
While you can conduct your fire risk assessment yourself, it is a good idea to employ a professional fire risk assessor to carry out at least the first assessment, to ensure that nothing important is missed. And to repeat this process in the event of any refurbishment or construction work.
Different buildings require different fire risk assessments
Buildings of no more than one storey above ground are usually fairly straightforward to assess and manage when it comes to fire protection. Unless they have an unknown build history.
Classified as a building with a single stair, no more than 3 storeys, and up to 18m above ground, low-rise buildings will be subject to additional fire protection measures. This will include the provision of supplementary escape routes. And there maybe some limitations on build materials, such as cladding.
A high-rise building is any structure of more than 18m above ground. Flats within these buildings should include protected firefighting shafts.
What is covered by a fire risk assessment for flats or apartments?
There are four different types of fire risk assessment for flats and apartments.
Common parts (non-destructive). The most common and the most basic of fire risk assessments, Type 1 will, in most cases, answer the landlord’s obligations according to the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005. It involves inspecting the building to assess whether it provides adequate fire exits, whether fire doors are in place, and where possible, whether the building construction adheres to fire safety standards. So, whether fire stopping infrastructure has been used, and the internal spaces compartmentalised. This is done without opening up the construction of the building for inspection.
Common parts only (destructive). The Type 2 fire risk assessment is broadly similar to type 1, with the exception that some destructive inspection takes place to allow for sampling. This means that a competent contractor will need to be employed to help carry out the inspection – and to repair the damage afterward. Luckily, this is usually only a one-off requirement, and only conducted if there is a strong belief that the building is structurally inadequate.
Common parts and flats (non-destructive). A Type 3 fire risk assessment involves all parts of a Type 1 assessment, but also takes into account the fire detection and escape facilities within the dwelling spaces. It is not a destructive process, but does include the full inspection of flats to ensure doors are fire resistant, that there is no serious fire risk within, and adequate fire detection systems are in place. This doesn’t usually involve assessing all of the flats within a building, but if the sample group is found wanting, then further inspections will be carried out.
Common parts and flats (destructive). The Type 4 fire risk assessment has the same remit as the Type 3, but here some destructive work can be carried out for sampling. Typically, this will only be necessary in exceptional circumstances. So, if there is a reason to believe that parts of the building are unsafe, or if the work’s history of the building is unknown. Because this form of work has the potential to be highly disruptive, it will usually be carried out in vacant flats and apartments.
The top 5 misconceptions about fire risk assessments for flats and apartments
A fire risk assessment is never conducted within the design, build, or snagging process. It can only take place once the building is in use.
The prospect of destructive fire risk assessment understandably deters many building owners. However, it’s important to know that these are not commonly required. Destructive assessments will only be requested in exceptional circumstances. And where it is deemed necessary, as little damage as possible will be undertaken – such as the removal of a false ceiling tile for testing.
You don’t necessarily need a professional to conduct your fire risk assessment. Although, for peace of mind, most landlords employ a specialist for their initial assessment.
Although fire risk assessment relates to the common areas of your property, this should also include the doors to flats. Most residential fires begin in kitchens. To prevent the fire spreading to other residences, you need to ensure fire doors are in place.
Fire risk assessment for flats and apartments isn’t just about fire escape and protection, but prevention too. So, make sure that you have the relevant measures in place in common areas.
Conducting regular fire risk assessments in flats or apartments under your care can be your first line of defence against fire. It can protect your property. But more importantly, it can protect – and save – the lives of the people who live within them. And provide peace of mind for you.
1st Class Fire Protection offers a full range of fire safety services for landlords and building owners across Norfolk, Suffolk, Cambridge and the surrounding areas. To find out more information about fire risk assessments for your flats or apartments, please get in touch with 1st Class Fire Protection today either on 01603 742741 or request a call back with our expert team.