A House in Multiple Occupation (HMO) is a property that is shared by three or more tenants who are not members of the same family. HMO landlords must have a licence from the Local Council Housing Department. This ensures that the property is managed properly and meets certain safety standards. The licence will be valid for up to three years, and will then have to be renewed.
All housing is subject to The Housing Act 2004 and this includes HMOs.
Fire safety in the common areas of HMOs, blocks of flats or Maisonettes are controlled by Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 (RRFSO), and this order lays down the legal requirements.
Because the RRFSO applies to HMOs the landlord or managing agent is usually designated as the Responsible Person (RP) under the Order.
Although the commons areas of all blocks of flats, maisonettes and HMOs are subject to the RRFSO it is important to know if your premises is specifically an HMO because you will have additional responsibilities under the Housing Act 2004.
A brief summary of what actions are required by the Responsible Person (RP) are;
Complete a fire risk assessment and consider the fire precautions in the common areas and eliminate or reduce risks identified to the lowest possible level
Consider escape routes which may require the provision of a fire barrier between the common areas and the living accommodation to create a protected route to a place of ultimate safety.
Consider the need for a fire detection and warning system and whether it should be extended into the living accommodation.
Consider the need for emergency escape lighting.
Consider firefighting equipment and facilities.
Consider the need for signs and notices
Consider recording, planning, informing, instructing and training which will require producing a fire action plan.
Any fire precautions provided will need to be maintained and this will cause no problems in the common areas, as they are easily accessed. However, if for example fire alarm systems have been extended into the living accommodations this may cause problems as domestic dwellings are exempt from the order and the tenants cannot be forced to co-operate with the RP. Therefore it is important that the tenancy agreement has a section devoted to Fire Safety that lays down duties the tenant has to abide by. This should include permission for the RP and any persons appointed by him/her to enter the living accommodation to carry out the maintenance of any fire safety equipment.
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