Fire safety is a critical concern in any residential property, and this is especially true for Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs).

HMOs accommodate a diverse group of individuals, often students sharing communal spaces, which can present unique challenges when it comes to fire safety. It is the responsibility of both landlords and tenants to work together to create a safe living environment that minimizes the risk of fires and ensures the swift and safe evacuation of residents in case of emergencies.

As students across the UK return back to Uni or college, the team at Hartson Fire has come up with these guidelines to ensure everyone is fire safe at all times.

Understanding HMOs

HMOs are residential properties where three or more individuals from separate households share facilities such as bathrooms, kitchens, or living areas. These properties range from large houses converted into flats to purpose-built HMOs with several self-contained units. Due to the higher occupancy and shared spaces, fire risks can be elevated compared to traditional single-occupancy dwellings.

The UK has stringent regulations in place to ensure fire safety in HMOs. The key legislation that governs fire safety in HMOs includes the Housing Act 2004 and the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005. These regulations impose obligations on landlords and tenants to maintain a safe living environment.

Responsibilities of Landlords

Landlords are required to conduct a thorough fire risk assessment of the property and its common areas. This assessment should identify potential fire hazards, evaluate the level of risk, and propose appropriate control measures.

Landlords must install and maintain suitable fire safety measures, such as smoke alarms, fire doors, emergency lighting, and fire extinguishers. These measures and equipment should be regularly checked and serviced to ensure their effectiveness.

Clear and unobstructed escape routes are essential for safe evacuation. Landlords should ensure that corridors, hallways, and staircases are well-lit and free from obstacles.

Landlords should provide tenants with information on fire safety procedures, including escape routes and assembly points as well as how and when to use fire extinguishers.

Faulty wiring and electrical equipment are common fire hazards. Regular electrical inspections by qualified professionals are necessary to mitigate these risks.

Responsibilities of Tenants

Tenants should familiarize themselves with the property's fire safety features, including the location of fire alarms, extinguishers, and escape routes. Tenants should avoid behaviour that increase fire risk, such as overloading electrical sockets, smoking indoors, or leaving cooking unattended.

If tenants identify fire safety hazards or equipment malfunctions, they should report them promptly to the landlord or property manager. Tenants should not obstruct hallways, corridors, or staircases, ensuring that escape routes remain unobstructed.

Fire Extinguishers for HMOs

When it comes to fire safety in HMOs, the selection of appropriate fire extinguishers is a crucial consideration. The types of fire extinguishers installed should align with the potential fire hazards present within the property. The choice of extinguishers should follow the guidelines provided by the British Standards Institution (BSI) and the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005.

Here are the types of fire extinguishers typically recommended for HMOs:

  • Water Extinguishers (Class A): These extinguishers are suitable for fires involving solid materials like paper, wood, and fabrics. However, they should not be used on fires involving electrical equipment or flammable liquids. Water extinguishers are not recommended for HMOs with mixed fire risks due to their limited applicability.
  • Foam Extinguishers (Class A and B): Foam extinguishers are effective on fires caused by flammable liquids (Class B) and solid materials (Class A). They create a blanket of foam that helps smother the fire and prevent re-ignition. Foam extinguishers are suitable for areas where both types of fire risks are present.
  • Carbon Dioxide (CO2) Extinguishers (Class B and Electrical Fires): CO2 extinguishers are ideal for fires involving electrical equipment (Class E) and flammable liquids (Class B). They leave no residue and do not conduct electricity, making them safe for electrical fires. CO2 extinguishers are commonly found in areas with electronic equipment.
  • Dry Powder Extinguishers (Class A, B, C, and Electrical Fires): Dry powder extinguishers are versatile and can be used on fires involving solid materials (Class A), flammable liquids (Class B), flammable gases (Class C), and electrical fires (Class E). However, they can create a cloud of powder that may obscure vision and cause breathing difficulties, so their use in enclosed spaces should be minimized.
  • Wet Chemical Extinguishers (Class F and Cooking Fires): Wet chemical extinguishers are specifically designed for fires involving cooking oils and fats (Class F). They work by cooling and emulsifying the burning fat. These extinguishers are recommended for HMOs with communal kitchens to address potential cooking-related fire hazards.

When choosing fire extinguishers for an HMO, a fire risk assessment should be carried out to identify the specific fire hazards present. It's important to consult with fire safety professionals like Hartson Fire to ensure that the extinguishers selected are appropriate for the property's layout and usage.

In Summary

Ensuring fire safety in HMOs is a shared responsibility between landlords and tenants. The UK's robust legal framework mandates specific fire safety measures to protect residents in these shared accommodation settings. By adhering to regulations, conducting regular inspections, and fostering a culture of fire safety awareness, HMOs can be safe places for residents to live and thrive. Prioritising fire safety not only prevents potential disasters but also contributes to the overall well-being of everyone within the property.

If you’re a landlord of an HMO and you are still unclear about what fire safety equipment you will require in the property, call the team at Hartson Fire today on the number below to book a site visit: