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. The landlord must have a licence from the local authority which is valid for up to three years and then has to be renewed. This is to ensure that the property is managed properly and adheres to certain safety standards.
The landlord of an HMO must undertake an HMO fire risk assessment and also review it on a regular basis. The aims of the fire risk assessment are:
• To identify the fire hazards.
• To reduce the risk of those hazards causing harm to as low as reasonably practicable.
• To decide what physical fire precautions and management arrangements are necessary to ensure the safety of people in your premises if a fire does start.
It is important that you carry out your fire risk assessment in a practical and systematic way and that you allocate enough time to do a proper job. It must take the whole of your premises into account, including outdoor locations and any rooms and areas that are rarely used.
If the premises are small you may be able to assess them as a whole. In larger premises you may find it helpful to divide them into rooms or a series of assessment areas using natural boundaries, e.g. bedroom areas, kitchens, offices, stores, as well as corridors, stairways and external routes.
The HMO fire risk assessment needs to identify hazards such as sources of ignition and sources of fuel. It also needs to identify people at risk in and around the premises, and especially anyone who is disabled. You then need to evaluate the risk of a fire occurring and the risk to people from fire. You have to remove or reduce fire hazards and the risk to people. It is necessary to ensure that detection and warning systems are in place and are functioning, such as smoke alarms. It is also necessary to consider fire-fighting equipment, escape routes, and lighting.
Having undertaken your fire risk assessment, you need to keep a written record of your findings and the action taken, if any. You should also review your assessment periodically, especially when anything changes. For example, a tenant may move out and a new tenant may move in.
In order for a fire to start, three things are needed. These are a source of ignition, fuel, and oxygen. If one of these is missing, a fire cannot start. Sources of fuel may be flammable liquids, gases, or solids. Oxygen, of course, is always present in the air. Sources of ignition can be many, such as smokers’ materials; electric, gas, or oil-fired heaters; cooking equipment; naked flames such as candles or nightlights; faulty electrical equipment such as electric blankets, laptops, table lamps, and so on; and obstruction of ventilation equipment. Another possibility is arson.
Part of the fire risk assessment is to consider those people who may be at risk. Obviously, residents will be at risk and when sleeping may be slow to respond. However, your tenants may also have visitors. There could also be cleaners on the premises, and you might have sent maintenance men or decorators in to do some work. You also have to consider people with disabilities, for example someone who is deaf and may not hear a smoke alarm, or a wheelchair user.
The chances of a fire occurring are fairly low if there are few sources of ignition and combustible materials are kept away from them. Fires generally start in one of three ways, such as if cigarettes are not put out properly, or a lamp could be knocked over. They may also be the result of waste being allowed to accumulate near a heat source, or electrical equipment that is faulty or has not been properly maintained. The third way is arson, which is something that can be difficult to allow for: however, you should see that intruders are unable to gain entry to your premises as far as is possible.
Having identified any hazards, you should take steps to remove them, or if this is not possible, reduce them as far as you can. This is an essential part of a fire risk assessment and is a priority