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HMO Fire Safety

Why is fire safety in HMOs so important?
 
The Housing Act 2004 places new emphasis on Local Housing Authorities to risk assess and bring about improvements in the housing stock through  the Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS). The HHSRS risk assessment method consists of 29 categories of “hazard” that may cause harm in the home. The kinds of harm that have been identified are physical - like injury or hyperthermia from lack of heating , through to psychological harm from things like excessive noise. Other categories of harm are protection from infection and protection against accidents.

Fire safety is one of the risk categories which has been included in the assessment for all homes because national statistics show that fire is a major cause of fatality and injury in residential premises. The risk of fire is assessed regardless of whether a property is in multiple occupation or occupied by a single family. So the government has joined up modern Building Regulations which require smoke detectors in all new homes with the Housing Act 2004 which is concerned with standards in existing property. However, local councils are unlikely to take enforcement action to improve fire safety unless there is a significant risk to the occupiers. This means that rented housing and particularly houses in multiple occupation, high rise flats, older converted properties and 'over the shop' type accommodation are the major focus of our work. Owner occupiers or occupiers of lower risk categories can always ask for advice from either the Council or the Fire and Rescue Authority. Home fire safety visits and free smoke detectors are services provided by the Fire and Rescue Service.

 

Serious fire

 

The greatest risks to occupiers are to be found in multi-occupied properties where there are 3 or more storeys. This may include houses that are converted into flats, hostels, managed or sheltered accommodation, purpose built multi-storey buildings and flats above shops. The risk rises with increased occupancy, multiple ignition sources (cookers, heaters, fires, smoking), vulnerable occupants, poor construction and lack of fire prevention measures. Analysis of national fire statistics have concluded:

  • You are six times more likely to die in a fire if you live in any house in multiple occupation (HMO), compared with a single family house.
  • The risk increases to sixteen times more at risk of fatal injury if you live in an HMO which is 3 or more storeys high.

 

Fire safety standards for HMOs and high risk residential property

The Council has worked extensively with Bedfordshire and Luton Fire and Rescue Service to design fire safety solutions that are effective, practicable and appropriate for the local housing stock and the likely occupants. There is also national guidance - called LACORS guidance - which helps local authorities set the right standards for houses in their local area. It is also important to take into account the vulnerable group for a particular hazard when assessing the risks and possible solutions. For fire safety assessment purposes, the vulnerable group is considered to be the over 60’s, because of mobility problems and the potential for pre-existing health conditions that may be adversely affected by smoke and fire. Vulnerable individuals with mental health needs, substance dependency or disabilities may require special provisions that should be built into proposed schemes of work.

What legislation applies?

The main powers for local Councils come from the Housing Act 2004, Part 1 which gives Local Housing Authorities extensive duties and powers to remedy hazards within residential property. Councils work together with local fire and rescue services which enforce fire safety legislation. The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005, replaces the two major pieces of fire safety legislation, the Fire Precautions Act 1971 and the Fire Precautions (Workplace) Regulations 1997 as amended. The Order consolidates the fire safety provisions of other legislation under one simplified set of goal based requirements. Risk assessment will be used as the basis for compliance and the responsible person on the premises is held liable in the case of any breach.

The  fire safety standards are available either to download or you can get hold of a hard copy by contacting the HMO team on 01234 718099. The standards contain fire safety solutions for single dwellings through to high rise blocks of flats and are intended for use by interested landlords, housing associations and practitioners working on fire safety schemes. The standards now include LACORS guidance and the Fire Risk Assessment 'Sleeping Guide'. The resulting document now forms guidance which covers all Bedfordshire and is adopted by Bedford Borough Council, being applicable to local housing conditions.

Fire safety standards document

 

The Council has developed specifications and practical guidance for fire safety works in HMOs or high risk property for download or they are available from the housing team. 

 

Fire door spec

Fire safety smoke seals

Fire alarm Grade A spec

Fire alarm Grade D spec

 

A fire notice which should be displayed in the common hallways and on the back of each bedroom door is available for download here or from the housing team 01234 718099

Fire Notice

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