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Landlords Warned of Winter Fire Risks

by Alison Feemantle

As the winter fast approaches more of us are switching on our heating and turning on the fire.  As a result, this time of year is often when the most fires occur in the UK.  As a result, Landlords are being advised to ensure they have sufficient provisions in place within their properties to ensure protection of tenants and the property itself.

Fire and smoke kill and also cause devastating damage to properties and it’s essential that measures are taken to avoid fatalities and protect against damage to rented property and those properties nearby.

Let Insurance Services has recently released figures stating that rented accommodation is seven times more likely to have a fire than owned property.  That’s an astounding statistic and one that can’t be ignored whether you are a tenant or a landlord.

It’s essential that smoke alarms are fitted in all rented properties to ensure quick warning systems are in place should a fire break out.  Whilst some flats and apartments have fire alarms in communal areas, it’s often too late once a fire in a flat reaches these devices to sound the alarm.  Smoke can kill in seconds and it may not reach the communal fire alarm until it has done its worst.

Surprisingly, it’s not mandatory for rented accommodation to be fitted with smoke alarms.  However, as a landlord you have your tenants, your property and your reputation to protect so is it really worth avoiding installation for the sake of a few pounds or a few minutes up a ladder?  Smoke detectors today are affordable and could make the difference between life, death and total devastation of your property.

Michael Portman, MD of Let Insurance Services, said: “Not having a working smoke alarm doubles the risk of death and with over 27,000 fires a year across the UK, there needs to be a change in legislation.

“Out of 50 people killed in house fires in West Yorkshire over the past five years, 48 were in rented accommodation. What’s more, one fire brigade said that they do 60,000 home safety checks a year and find many alarms that are not working.

“Landlords and agents have a ‘common law’ duty to ensure that their properties are kept free from hazards for the health and safety of their tenants, including fire hazards. We urge all landlords and agents to check that every smoke alarm is in working order and there are an adequate number of smoke alarms are installed.

If you are a tenant living in a property without a smoke alarm fitted it’s vital that you address the issue with your landlord.  Produce statistics from this article if you have to, but make sure your landlord fits a suitable device as quickly as possible.  Fire can break out at any time and you want to be sure you have the means to escape quickly when it does.  You should also familiarise yourself with escape routes so you know what to do should a fire start.

We’ve put together a checklist for landlords and agents that will help to protect your properties and tenants and keep them as safe as possible:

  • Fit battery (or mains) operated smoke alarms in your properties. Show your tenants how to test them, and change the batteries between tenancies
  • At the start of the tenancy check that the battery works and demonstrate to the tenant that the alarm works
  • Check whether your tenancy agreement requires the tenant to ensure the smoke alarm is in a working condition
  • At your regular property inspections check the smoke alarms work. If they are not working, produce a new battery at the inspection to fit to the smoke alarm and ask the tenant to pay for the battery there and then
  • Check that any working chimneys have been swept

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