Inventories crucial to tenant fire safety

9th May 2023

According to the head of the Association of Independent Inventory (AIIC), Daniel Evans, inventories play a crucial role in protecting tenants from the hazards of house fires. He believes that running safety protocols during check-ins and conscientiously monitoring tenancies can prevent fires and subsequently save lives. There are two aspects landlords must consider for fire safety. First, there are minimum compliance checks required by legislation. Second, additional measures can be taken to further reduce the risk of fire and keep tenants safe. The inventory process is the ideal opportunity to check things out, Evans explains.

The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 requires landlords to “eliminate or reduce the risk of fire as far as is reasonably practical.” The Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarm (Amendment) Regulations 2022 stipulate that landlords must ensure there is at least one smoke alarm on each storey of their home with a room used as living accommodation. They must also ensure that there is a carbon monoxide detector in any room with a fixed combustion appliance.

The CO detector needs to be placed in any room with a gas boiler, coal fire, or wood-burning stove. It is also recommended to install a heat detector in the kitchen as a good practice to alert tenants to an actual fire. Wood burners put in after 2011 need an installation certificate, and landlords should inform their insurers, in addition to complying with local authority rules. The recommended alarms should be compliant with British Standards BS 5839-6, and they can be mains-powered or battery-powered. Alarms must be tested at the start of each new tenancy, and landlords are responsible for repairing or replacing faulty alarms.

All of this can be done at the inventory stage, and it’s a good idea to do this in front of the tenants and keep written records signed by all parties, which can then be made part of the inventory. Landlords should consider providing sturdy step-stools, or a safe stepladder if there are high ceilings, to test and switch off ringing alarms. The same rules cover unlicensed Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs). If the HMO requires a license, the local authority rules will be the same as a minimum, and there may be additional requirements.

Soft furnishings supplied by landlords must have a manufacturer’s label stating their fire resistance. It is much safer to ensure all items have fire-resistance labels and not to purchase second-hand furniture missing its labels. Landlords should also make sure that escape routes are not cluttered with, for example, bins, bicycles, or suitcases. If a single-let rental rather than an HMO, landlords are not required to provide fire extinguishers or fire blankets, but they should consider having them anyway.

Any electrical equipment supplied, even if it’s just a kettle, should be considered for Portable Appliance Testing (PAT) once a year by an electrician or certified tester. An Electrical Installation Condition Report (EICR) must be done by a qualified electrician. Gas Safety Certificate must be done annually by a Gas Safe registered engineer. If your property portfolio is managed by a letting agent, then these tests are usually arranged by your property manager so you can have peace of mind that you are compliant.

Coapt can provide inventories at a competitive rate to help reduce the risk of fires and promote fire safety. These inventories can include detailed information about the placement and maintenance of carbon monoxide alarms, smoke alarms, and other fire safety equipment required by law. We can additionally provide advice and guidance on best practices for reducing fire risks. You can see our inventory fees here.