Fire safety advice for landlords

Every landlord has a duty of care to ensure that the residential homes they rent are fit for purpose. Not only should the property be structurally sound, but appliances should be regularly checked to ensure they are safe and working, in particular where this relates to electric and gas appliances which should be serviced and checked at least annually by a qualified engineer.

Fire safety legislation also needs to be carefully adhered to and all exits to the property should be clear. Furnishings and fittings need to be of flame retardant material and smoke and fire alarms should be fitted, working and tested regularly throughout the building.  Carbon monoxide monitors are also crucial health and safety measures.

Buildings that are large or that are considered to be of multiple occupation (such as houses let to groups of students or where there are three or more tenants made up of different households) are legally obliged to have a fire extinguisher.

But what type of fire extinguisher to buy? Different categories of fire extinguisher exist to tackle different problems. For example, electrical fires are best extinguished using a powder or CO2 product, while a wood, textiles or paper fire can be put out with ordinary water. Never try to put out an electrical fire with water as this carries a significant risk of electrocution.

The most appropriate general purpose fire extinguisher to have in the house is a powder extinguisher. These are suitable for Class A (wood, textiles and paper), Class B (petrol, oil, paint and tar) and Class C fires (flammable gasses).

The extinguishers come in different sizes and if a property is more than two storeys high and is occupied by more than one household, it might make sense to have more than one extinguisher.

However, kitchen fires (often caused by cooking fats such as lard or olive oil) need to be treated with a wet chemical extinguisher or a fire blanket which will smother and put out the fire.

Fire blankets are also useful for fires in small areas such as a bin.  If purchasing a wet chemical extinguisher, buy one that is also considered safe if it is accidentally used on an electrical fire.

Landlord fire safety packs that are designed to deal with most categories of fire can be purchased and it is recommended that you buy one that also includes a first aid kit.

Instructions on how to use fire safety equipment should be clearly displayed alongside the equipment itself, particularly in high-risk areas such as kitchens and utility rooms.