Landlords have a legal responsibilityto their tenants safe. There are regulations and laws that landlords must follow, especially in regards to fire safety. The council will work with landlords to ensure that the regulations are being followed and tenants are well protected. In regards to HMOs, there is no single set of standards, individual councils agree to the rules and monitor them via licensing. They choose if licensing applies to you or not; what is standard, however, is that all large HMOs are subject to mandatory licensing.

It sounds complicated and at first, the choices can appear confusing. It is always recommended that landlords local housing office. Ask them to clarify what they expect when it comes to fire safety. Ignoring the regulations can be costly, both monetarily and, in the worst case scenario, loss of life.

A good example of what may happen if the rules and regulations of the responsibility of a landlord are neglected is a recent case of a HMO owner/landlord being fined £17,000 for being non-compliant. This particular landlord ignored repeated warnings from the council. He was ordered to make a number of repairs, including: the fitting of mains wired smoke and heat detectors, provision of a fire extinguisher and fire blanket in the kitchen, new locks on fire exit doors and the display of his contact details so tenants could report repairs or emergencies

The repairs were deemed necessary because the rental property was an HMO at the time. Council officers also ordered the landlord to provide them with copies of gas and electrical safety certificates. The landlord failed to comply with a single request and was duly fined.He also provided a weak defence to the courts. In it he claimed that the house was not an HMO because some tenants were related. He also cited his living arrangements in Lincolnshire which made it challenging to manage an Ipswich property. The judge rejected both these claims. Whether the landlord lives around the corner or across the country, they are still responsible.

A council spokesman said: “The council aims to work with private landlords to ensure their tenants live in a safe and decent home. We made several attempts to work with the landlord to get the work done and in the end had no option but to seek enforcement action through the courts.The sentence reflects the seriousness of the offences and should demonstrate to landlords that the council will take appropriate steps to secure compliance with housing law.”

Ignorance of the law is no excuse. There are many resources that can be found to ensure a landlord is maintaining a safe property and keeping up with their responsibilities. If a landlord does not live in the same area as their rental property, they might want to think about hiring a management company to ensure their property is kept up to standards. They can also consult with Fire & Safety Management (UK) Ltd on legislation and equipment.

Contacting a reputable supplier of equipment, preferably with third party accreditation, can help landlords make the right choice.

A landlord’s responsibility doesn’t end with the purchase and installation of equipment. The law also requires them to maintain and service the hardware. They can ask tenants to get involved. For example, they can test fire alarms once a week (this keeps landlords compliant with British Standard 5839). If there are fire extinguishers or fire blankets in the property, they can do a monthly visual check. If a fire were to break out, properly functioning fire safety equipment is the difference between life and death. Tenant’s lives are in the landlord’s hands, so please, take your responsibility seriously.