Fire Alarms in Houses in Multiple Occupation HMO

HMO

What owners and landlords of HMO’s often ask

We often take calls from owner-landlords that are looking for advice about fire alarms and emergency lighting within Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMO)

To answer these questions we thought that we should provide a list of frequently asked questions to help you get a handle on what you need to do and more importantly what you could expect to spend in very general terms, but the first thing you should do is read the LACoRS document, you’ll find that there is a link below and also that this publication is widely available on the internet

None of these documents are what you could consider, ‘a complete guide’, as the process is bespoke and will take quite an effort to navigate, however by answering some of the most common questions, we hope to have contributed to easing your journey…

Legislation

LACoRS  (free to download) (Local Authorities Coordinators of Regulatory Services)

BS5839 Part 1 2017 (Commercial Fire Alarms) , BS 5839 Part 6 2013 (Domestic Fire Alarms)  and BS5266 Part 1 2016 (Emergency Lighting) these are are all British Standards which you’ll have to pay to download

The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 – This is a large document that effectively makes it clear that if you are in any way responsible then you will be liable if fire safety is ignored

Frequently asked questions

Guidance

Q1. Can you tell me what I need to do with regard to installing a fire alarm?

A1. This depends upon quite a few things, however the first thing you need to do is a Fire Risk Assessment (FRA)

COST

Q2. How much will it cost

A2. Again this is a how long is a piece of string question, however typically the majority of the calls we take on HMO’s involve a building which has 2-5 tenants and has a common area of three to four floors so here is a ball park cost for you for a commercial grade system (BS5839 part 1) which confusingly is effectively the case if Part 6 is requested with a Grade A type as part of the requirements (yes this is a little complicated)

The Ball-park costs could be;

Fire Risk Assessment (with advice) £350-£500 plus VAT

Wired Fire Alarm £2,500-£4,500 depending upon technology and plus VAT

Radio Fire alarm £3,500-£6,000 plus VAT

BUY CHEAP BUY TWICE

You will find cheaper prices, this is the same as you can with everything in life, the question you should ask yourself is ‘why is it cheaper?’, or perhaps ‘what am I not getting?’, correct advice and work is not cheap and we are talking life safety here so make sure that whom ever you choose comes with bona fide recommendations and is installing equipment that is up to the standards and will not cause false alarms

 

Q3. Is there someone who can handle this all for me?

A3. Yes there is, you could appoint a consultant to organise the FRA, design the recommendations and tender the works, I would estimate that you would pay in the region of £1-2,000 plus VAT for this type of consultancy

ACCOUNTABILITY

Q4. Do I have to do this?

A4. Generally if you are over three floors and have more than two different tenants then the answer is yes you do, although the requirements for HMO’s vary from council to council and sometimes we have seen involvement from environmental health departments to rule on the fire alarm provisions. In essence if you have carried out a fire risk assessment then you are required to follow the advice

Q5. Am I liable?

A5. Yes, technically the responsible person is liable and if this unclear who this could be then you should clarify this, the best way to look at it would be to ask yourself if you were stood in front of the Judge and was asked why you did nothing when you knew about this situation, saying “I didn’t think it was down to me” would be a weak answer as its easily countered by “ok, so what did you do next?”

Q6. What do I have to do to be legal?

A6. Carry out a Fire risk assessment then act on the recommendations, the caveat is to make sure that who ever does the FRA and subsequent works is competent as this will come back to you if you have chosen and incompetent person or contractor, so check references, recommendations and competency

CHECKS

Q7. How do I prove competency?

A7. Do the basics, check for ratings on Google and ask for recommendations, check their accreditations and that they hold specific insurance to cover the work, not just public liability insurance.

Q8. How do I check accreditations?

A8. BAFE is a good place to start, you can check by company name and postcode from their address