HHSRS Guide: Fire & Burn Hazards

Will Arrowsmith

By Will Arrowsmith

07 February 2020

The Fitness for Human Habitation Act (FFHH) was introduced in March 2019. Although it added no new requirements for landlords and agents, it reinforced the importance of the HHSRS (Housing health and safety rating system).

The latest instalment of our guides to the HHSRS looks at two of the important factors around fire and burn hazards. These are points 24 and 25 on the list of the 29 HHSRS hazards. And in the wake of Grenfell, fire hazards are under the microscope more than ever, especially if you’re also managing HMOs.

This guide aims to take a quick look at how to minimise risk around fire hazards in rented properties, including:

• What are the health risks and statistics around fire and burn hazards?
• What are the main sources of burns and scalds?
• How can landlords and agents minimise exposure to fire and burn hazards?


Fire risks in the home

More than 400 people die each year as a result of fires in the home, and more than 200 die as a result of scalding or burn injuries. That’s 600 tragic deaths that could be prevented by proper safeguards in the home.

Add to this the 11,000 people who are injured as a result of fire-related accidents and the problem suddenly gets even bigger. Fire and scalding related injuries include:

• Burns caused by contact with a hot flame
• Burns caused by contact with a hot surface
• Scalding by contact with boiling water or vapour
• Gas or smoke inhalation including carbon monoxide poisoning

The most common causes of burns, scalds or house fires in the UK are:

• Smoking (over 50% of house fires are attributable to cigarettes)
• Kitchen fires, such as unattended pots etc
• Faulty heating systems, such as portable fires
• Candles
• Damaged and substandard electronic devices
• Misadventure, including fires that are started accidentally by young children
• Hot surfaces such as irons, pipework or spilt liquids/pans


Who is responsible for fire safety?

In short, anyone who lives in the property or who has a duty to maintain the premises. But responsibilities fall to tenants and landlords/agents in slightly different ways. For example:

Tenants Responsibilities

As the resident of the property, the tenant is the first line of defence against fire and burn hazards. As the property manager, advising the tenant of the best practice is your responsibility, normally as part of the contract agreement.

Tenants should ensure:

• Equipment and appliances are used correctly (such as not hanging clothes in front of fires, or using a gas stove to heat part of the property)
• Fire escapes are kept clear
• Fire doors are not propped open or have their self closing device removed (a particular issue when tenants move into / out of the property).
• Avoiding storing flammable or explosive material near to flames and other heat sources
• Avoid overloading plug sockets with plug blocks or poorly maintained electrical equipment
• Ideally, smoking should be kept outside of the premises. However, if smoking is permitted in the property then use of ashtrays and careful disposal of cigarette butts is highly recommended.
• Fire extinguishers and fire blankets not to be removed from their housing bracket / cradle.
• Test smoke detection units monthly
• Ensure that gas equipment is maintained correctly and switched off when not in use

Put simply, day to day management of the property falls to the occupiers of the property. It is their actions that have the biggest effect on the potential for fires or burns.


Property Manager's Responsibilities

As the letting agent or landlord, much of your responsibility is in minimising the risks in the structure, ensuring legal checks and guidelines are met, and the correct equipment is provided for the tenants use.

• Siting of stoves, burners and other gas or solid fuel burning appliances away from flammable materials
• A valid gas safety certificate, issued annually
• Sufficient electrical plug sockets, sited appropriately
• Fire doors installed where possible with appropriate fire smoke seals and intumescent strips installed.
• Fire extinguishers and fire blankets made available, and maintained correctly
• Fire alarms and smoke/carbon monoxide detectors installed and tested regularly
• Suitable distance between cooking and food prep areas and living areas
• Ensuring the water temperature is correctly set (below 60°c)
• Furniture that complies with fire safety regulations, the Fire and Furnishings (fire) (safety) Regulations 1988.
• Ensure fire escapes or fire safety equipment are not blocked, damaged or otherwise unavailable
• Provide protection from potential fire or burn sources, such as fire guards with open fires, or insulation for hot pipework

Basically, make sure that the property offers a minimal risk of exposure to fire, and an effective way to escape or eliminate the fire if needed.

What are your legal obligations?

Landlords have a legal obligation to carry out a fire risk assessment to identify any potential fire hazards and to remove them or remedy any issues in the property.

All properties should have a fire/carbon monoxide alarm, and these should be tested regularly.

Properties also need to have a valid gas safety certificate, issued annually. These must be issued after an inspection by a qualified gas safety registered engineer.

There is no legal requirement to provide fire extinguishers or fire blankets. But in the event of a fire, if you were asked to provide evidence of your fire assessment plan, showing that you did everything in your power to prevent a fire or provide preventative measures could be critical evidence.

House in Multiple Occupancy (HMO)

If you’ve applied for an HMO licence for your property then the local authority will arrange an inspection of the property to assess the fire risks. As an HMO is at a higher risk of a fire starting, an inspection will likely be more stringent.

If you manage an HMO you may also need to provide the following:

• A mains wired interlinked fire alarm system that covers the whole property
• Property features such as doors that provide a minimum of 30 minutes of fire resistance
• Exit doors that can be operated without a key
• Fire blankets in kitchens
• Fire extinguishers in hallways
• All exits kept clear at all times

HMO regulations tend to differ between local authorities, but they are all subject to HHSRS assessments.


Bear in mind that tenants can report failure to comply with any of these requirements to the Health and Safety Executive. And be aware also, in the case of a fire in a home you manage, the fines are potentially unlimited and criminal charges can be bought in the case of death.

In 2018, a letting agent in Huddersfield was jailed for 12 months as a result of a fire that killed 2 young boys. The fire started as a result of an electrical fault, and the agent was found to have been negligent in his duty to install smoke alarms in the premises, despite repeated requests.

Stay on the right side of the law, and make sure all your properties are correctly assessed. Be responsive to any issues that may arise in the property and keep all your certifications and inspections up to date.


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This article is intended for information purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. If you have any questions related to issues in this article, we strongly advise contacting a legal professional.
These blog posts are the work of Fixflo and are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License. In summary, you are welcome to re-publish any of these blog posts but are asked to attribute Fixflo with an appropriate link to www.fixflo.com. Access to this blog is allowed only subject to the acceptance of these terms.

Will Arrowsmith

By Will Arrowsmith

07 February 2020

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