Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMO)

HMO Fire Safety Standards

HMOs require a certain level of fire precautions which may include mains wired interlinked fire alarm system, emergency lighting and a fully protected means of escape.  The Private Sector Housing team will carry out an inspection and if necessary advise on the works required.  These works are based on a Housing Health & Safety Rating System inspection, the LACORS - Guidance on Fire Safety Provisions for certain types of existing housing and following a consultation with Buckinghamshire Fire & Rescue Service.

Other fire safety legislation that may be applied to HMO’s includes:

The guidance on fire safety provisions for certain types of existing housing advises you on how to comply with fire safety law, helps you to carry out a fire risk assessment and identify the general fire precautions you need to have in place.

A brief summary of what actions that may be required by you are;

  • Complete a fire risk assessment and consider the fire precautions required in your property to either eliminate or reduce the risk to the lowest possible level. All assessments to be carried out by a competent person.
  • 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.
  • 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.

Maintenance

Any fire safety measures provided will need to be maintained and this requirement is included in the Management of Houses in Multiple Occupation (England) Regulations 2006.

Ensure that you carry out regular inspections of your property and document defects and rectify all faults.

Fire Alarm, Detection System & Fire Fighting Equipment

All fire alarm systems must be maintained in accordance with manufacturers’ instructions and BS5839, which describes testing and maintenance procedures for complex (Grade A) and simpler (e.g. Grade D) fire alarm systems. Ensure that periodic inspections and servicing of equipment are carried out by a competent person and in line with manufacturer’s instructions, and that any defects identified are recorded and then rectified.

The following maintenance and testing frequencies are recommended and should be followed unless a fire risk assessment identifies a higher or lower test frequency is required:

Large (3+ storey) HMOs with Grade A LD1 fire alarms systems:

  • These are complex systems comprising detectors in all rooms, call-points and a fire alarm panel, usually found in higher-risk properties):
  • Weekly tests – At least one detector or call point in each zone should be tested weekly. This push-button testing could be done routinely by cleaning or maintenance staff, or a competent tenant.
  • Six-monthly maintenance – Grade A alarm systems must be serviced every six months by a suitably qualified and competent professional (i.e. a specialist alarm engineer under a maintenance contract). An Inspection and Servicing Certificate should be issued in accordance with BS 5839-1.
  • You should record these checks and any remedial action taken in a logbook.

Smaller HMOs with Grade D LD2 fire alarm systems:

  • These are simpler systems of mains-powered, interlinked alarms, usually comprising smoke alarms in corridors and selected risk rooms, and a heat detector in the kitchen:
  • Routine tests – BS5839:6 recommends weekly testing as best practice, but we appreciate that this is not always possible to achieve. We recommend that you:
    • Always test during routine inspections, maintenance or cleaning visits (press the button on a different detector each time ideally).
    • Advise tenants to test their detectors weekly.
  • The minimum testing frequency will depend on the size and type of HMO:
    • More often for higher risk properties e.g. ‘bedsit’ type (separately let bedrooms) and larger two and three storey HMOs – fortnightly or monthly
    • Less often for lower risk properties e.g. small two-storey properties let on a single tenancy – at least quarterly
  • Annual maintenance – All detectors must be maintained in accordance with manufacturers’ instructions. For Grade D systems this usually requires periodic cleaning/vacuuming of all detectors and changing batteries as necessary.
  • You should record these checks and any remedial action taken in a logbook

Protected Escape Route

These are provided to ensure that in the event of a fire the occupants can leave the building safely.  Ensure that they are free from any obstruction and that the floors, walls, floor covering, stairs and hand rails are in a sound condition.  Attention must be given to where walls meet door frames to ensure there are no gaps which may allow fire to spread.

Doors

Fire doors must not be propped open. Carry out regular checks for damage to the door or the door frame.  Ensure that the self-closing device works as intended and do not paint over cold smoke seals or intumescent strips.

Ensure all exit doors from the building are free from obstruction and can be opened from the inside without the use of a key.

Cupboards

Cupboards that are in use should be of fire resisting construction. Cupboards that are not protected should be empty and locked at all times.

Lighting

Check lighting to ensure that it operates correctly.  If emergency lighting is required it must be maintained in accordance with manufacturers’ instructions and BS 5266-8: 2004, which describes daily, monthly and annual tests.

The following maintenance and testing frequencies are recommended and should be followed unless a fire risk assessment identifies a higher or lower test frequency is required:

Visual ‘daily’ checks – Every time you visit the property check power LEDs are on. This check could be done routinely by cleaning or maintenance staff, or a competent tenant.

Short ‘monthly’ check – Press ‘test’ button to confirm all lights are working. Perform this test during each programmed inspection (e.g. quarterly checks).

Full annual test – Full test of lights (i.e. 3-hour full run down) following manufacturer’s instructions. This test should be done when the property is unoccupied, or alternative lighting must be provided until units have re-charged.

You should record these checks and any remedial action taken in a logbook. Any issues must be investigated by a competent professional.

Carbon Monoxide Detection

CO detectors must be provided in all habitable rooms containing a solid fuel appliance (e.g. coal/wood fires). Mains-powered detectors are advised.

CO detectors are strongly recommended in all habitable rooms containing a gas appliance (e.g. boiler/gas heater).

All detectors should be tested each time you visit the property (tenants are advised to test weekly) and serviced in accordance with manufacturer’s instructions

If you would like an inspection of your property or are thinking of letting a property as a HMO and would like further information or advice relating to fire safety or any other matters regarding the legislation that applies to HMO’s, please contact Private Sector Housing Service on 01908 252664 or by email.

 

Last Updated: 31 August 2021