Most landlords and tenants are aware that for a property to be legally rented out, fire risk assessments and appropriate management of any asbestos in the premises is a necessity. Not only do these types of assessments enable tenants to live safely, they are also important evidence if there are any later insurance claims. What may be less clear is a landlord’s responsibility towards communal areas when they don’t actually own them.
We carry out Type 1 and Type 3 fire risk inspections and with our asbestos experience, can be involved in Type 2 and Type 4 fire risk assessments.
Not directly related to the tenancy
A landlord has no direct responsibility to ensure that communal areas are appropriately assessed for fire or asbestos risk, provided they don’t own them. They do, however, have a legal responsibility to make sure that any people who work for them, or on behalf of them, work in an environment that is safe. This means that if a landlord employs cleaners, gardeners or similar individuals to keep communal areas clean, appropriate assessments need to be undertaken.
Whilst it may be tempting to exploit this legal loophole, it’s worth remembering that usually there will be some sort of clause in the rental agreement for the flat that stipulates an obligation to ensure the safety of communal areas. Failure to comply could lead to costly litigation and may even invalidate insurance claims.
Difficulty getTING repairs done
If you can’t provide evidence of appropriate risk assessments, tradesmen are within their rights to refuse to enter a building. Don’t risk a leak or other issue in your property becoming an emergency because you can’t find a plumber prepared to risk entering a potentially unsafe building. Prompt risk assessment is vital.
Although it’s not a direct legal requirement to facilitate a fire risk assessment of communal areas, the potential problems are significant if this affordable test isn’t carried out. Why risk a bill for thousands of pounds in legal costs or put people’s lives at risk when a comprehensive fire risk assessment can enable you to put the correct measures in place in a straightforward and cost-effective manner?
However, it is not as simple as ensuring there is a couple of fire extinguishers to hand – fire safety largely depends on the potential risks and the different types of buildings can cause confusion. For example, a building that is used for a single tenancy will differ to one which is shared across commercial and residential lettings.
Legislation requires that landlords carry out fire risk assessments in all areas of their properties. This process will identify any fire hazards and who is at risk and decide if anything needs to be done to remove or reduce that risk.
At the very least you should ensure that there is an adequate means of escape in case of fire, and landlords of shared and Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMO) properties will have additional obligations, both under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order (2005) and the Housing Act 2004.