Smoke alarms and furniture – what landlords need to know
On 24th August this year, landlord Philip Brotherton was fined £177,000 for breaching the fire safety regulations and putting his tenants’ lives at risk. The landlord’s property, an HMO in Reading, was inspected by the Royal Berkshire Fire and Rescue Service and found to fail fire safety regulations on several counts, including:
- Fire alarms not working
- Insufficient fire doors
- A fire escape in a poor state of repair
His story, reported in the Reading Chronicle, is ample evidence why landlords must ensure that their properties comply with the fire and safety regulations. In this article, we take a look at what those regulations say about smoke alarms and furniture.
Landlord law and smoke detectors
The Smoke Detectors Act 1991 is very specific about the need to include smoke detectors in new dwellings. At least one smoke alarm must be fitted before the property is completed, and the work must be signed off by the local authority. The law applies not only to new builds, but also to reconstructions and conversions of buildings to create flats.
In new blocks of flats, at least one smoke alarm must be provided on each floor. The smoke alarms should be mains operated, linked, and have a standby battery.
To avoid falling foul of the smoke alarm regulations, ensure that your property has a working smoke alarm fitted on each floor (and make certain that you include carbon monoxide alarms where required, too).
If the smoke alarms are battery operated (e.g. they are fitted to older properties), they must be in working order at the start of a tenancy. Of course, it is impractical to expect landlords to ensure that smoke alarms are working through the duration of a tenancy. However, to ensure that the responsibility is deferred to the tenant, landlords should include a clause in the tenancy agreement that makes the tenant liable for testing and replacing batteries when needed.
Landlord law and furniture
Fire spreads quickly, especially if furnishings catch fire easily. The Furniture and Furnishings (Fire Safety) Regulations 1998 were introduced to help prevent the rapid spread of house fires and remove padding and foam fillings that gave off toxic gases when ablaze.
The regulations apply to manufacturers, retailers, and landlords and letting agents, and have gone through several rounds of amendments. Manufacturers must produce furniture that complies with the safety standards within the regulations, while retailers must ensure that the furniture they sell is marked with a permanent safety standards label.
As a landlord, it is your responsibility to ensure that any furniture you include as part of the property (including holiday lets and residential properties, HMOs and bedsits) complies with the fire and safety standards regulations. This applies to all furniture, whether bought new or second-hand.
What do the furniture regulations cover?
The regulations cover the following furnishing if they contain upholstered coverings:
- Beds, headboards, mattresses and bed bases
- Sofas, armchairs, footstalls, sofa beds and futons
- Nursery furniture
- Scatter cushions and seat pads
- Padded seats
- Loose and stretch furniture covers
- Outdoor furniture suitable for use indoors
Though the regulations don’t cover furniture made before 1950, if it has been reupholstered since 1950 then they do apply.
Again, if you let a property with furnishings and those furnishings don’t comply with the regulations, you could be fined up to £5,000. And note this: it is a criminal offence, so you could also be put behind bars for up to six months.
Be safe with furniture
A £5,000 fine and a stretch in jail. Plus living with the consequences of what happened to tenants living in an unsafe home. Doesn’t bear thinking about, does it? However, furnishing your buy-to-let property can help you maximise rental income. To help with both aims – improving your rental returns and being a good and legal landlord – we recommend furnishing your property with furniture for investors. These are a range of furniture packs designed to suit all properties and all budgets, designed with investment property in mind and compliant with all regulations.
To learn more, or for information about effortless property management, contact Ezytrac today.
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