Why HMOs need a fire risk assessment

Landlords of Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs) need a fire risk assessment to highlight hazards their properties harbour, as well as to provide protection in a court of law should an incident occur.

What is an HMO?

Firstly, it is worth outlining what an HMO is.

A property is an HMO if you let, or intend to let, to a minimum of three tenants who comprise more than one household and who share bathroom, kitchen and/or toilet facilities.

Moreover, large HMOs, with three or more storeys, or five or more tenants forming more than one household, require an HMO licence.

In certain areas, local councils will also require small HMOs or all HMOs to carry a licence, and to determine whether your property is obliged to be licensed, you should contact your local council.

Furthermore, if your application for an HMO licence is refused, you can appeal to a Residential Property Tribunal, although your local council should try to resolve the situation first.

HMOs and fire risk assessments

Once you have established that your property is indeed an HMO, it is necessary for you to produce a fire risk assessment.

A fire risk assessment is not only relevant to HMOs, but should also be drawn up by offices, shops, community halls, hotels, sports centres and various other commercial facilities.

Effectively, the assessment should identify and reduce the risks posed to staff, guests and visitors from fire, and as already mentioned; it also gives landlords greater legal protection if an accident does happen.

Why HMOs legally need a fire risk assessment

Under the Housing Act 2004 and the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005, HMOs are required to undertake fire risk assessments.

Landlords should note that they are not expected to train tenants in fire safety, but that this is merely a document to outline where the hazards lie and how they can be avoided.

What information can you expect to include?

There are some simple steps to begin with that include the property address, assessment date, completed by and date reviewed headings.

From there you will be required to elaborate on four main areas.

These are identifying a list of hazards, who could be harmed, whether the risk is appropriately controlled and what further action is needed to control the risk.

Identifying fire hazards

The first action you will be required to take when undergoing a fire risk assessment is to make your way carefully around the property noting all its potential hazards and dangers, such as sources of fuel where ignition of a flame could occur.

Next, determine whether other hazards would obstruct someone's exit should a fire break out, such as wires or other obstacles that might trip them up.

Consider how this risk could be reduced - for example, if it is an old gas cooker, might it be safer to update it with a new model? And if there are obstacles, such as loose wires, is it possible to clear them out of harm's way?

Afterwards, consider who is most at risk from this hazard.

Note down what preventative strategies you have taken to curb the risk and also mention where information about the risk can be found. It is worth including the location of safety necessities like fire extinguishers and first aid kits.

If you have discussed the risk with a tenant or inspector, write down any points about the risk that arose from this meeting.

Complete the fire risk assessment by detailing what future action you intend to take to further reduce the risk.

From there, repeat the procedure for every following risk or hazard you identify around the property.

Download Lawpack's Fire Risk Assessment Kit and make sure that you comply with the law. Lawpack's "Download Now" eKit includes the three key forms you would be required to present to an inspector visiting your HMO, plus an expert guidance manual. 

Other information

  • Do you need an HMO licence?

External links

Published on: September 27, 2011

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