Fire safety

This fact sheet explains how residents can get help if they are concerned about fire safety in their home, including the common parts of their residential buildings.

Who is this for?

Unless specified below, this information applies to all residential tenants, including leaseholders.

Who is responsible for fire safety?

Many people and organisations, including tenants themselves are responsible for checking and improving fire safety in residential properties.

What are tenants responsible for?

As a tenant, you are responsible for ensuring that you don’t create a fire hazard in your home, for example by storing flammable items on your balcony, or by blocking fire escape routes; and to be aware of fire safety measures, including the evacuation plan for your building.

What can landlords do?

Landlords and freehold owners of residential buildings have a legal duty to ensure that a fire risk assessment is carried out to identify and remove any fire risks and hazards, or to reduce these as far as possible.

In rented properties, landlords are responsible for ensuring that the properties meet fire safety standards. Landlords also need to keep their tenants informed of what to do in an emergency, including providing evacuation plans.

Landlords should ensure that front doors of flats and communal areas (like corridors and staircases) have self-closing fire doors installed. These are designed to stop the spread of fires and should not be held open. Landlords should also ensure that fire exits and escape routes in their buildings are not blocked, and that everyone in the building knows the evacuation plan in case there is a fire (this includes tenants and staff members).

There are special fire safety obligations on landlords of specialised housing such as sheltered or supported housing.

If you think there is a potential fire risk caused by disrepair in your property or building that your landlord (or freeholder) is responsible for repairing, you should report this issue to the landlord immediately with your concerns. You can find further details about reporting disrepair in our fact sheet on Property condition.

Gas safety reports to the Health and Safety Executive

Landlords have a legal obligation to have the gas supply and any gas appliances in their properties checked every year by a gas safety engineer, and to provide a gas safety certificate to their tenants at the start of the tenancy, and then within 28 days of every annual check.

Landlords also have a legal duty to install carbon monoxide detectors in any rooms where a solid fuel can be burned (such as on a wood or coal burning stove).

Tenants can report landlords’ failure to comply with any of these requirements to the Health and Safety Executive.

If you think there is a gas leak in your property, you should contact the National Gas Emergency Service on 0800 111 999.

Health and safety inspections by local authorities

Local authorities’ (councils’) environmental health officers (EHOs) have powers under the Housing Act 2004 to inspect properties (including common areas) under the Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS). The HHSRS is a risk assessment tool used to identify potential hazards to health and safety issues in buildings. EHOs use points under the system to calculate the risk and severity of any hazards they identify. This system can be used to assess hazards in private and social rented properties, as well as owner occupied, or even empty properties.

Fire is one of the 29 categories of potential hazards under the HHSRS. EHOs look at all factors in a property that could cause harm to residents or visitors. In relation to fire hazards, these include inspecting the position of cookers and heaters; the adequacy of space heating facilities, including any defects or disrepair; clothing drying facilities; sockets and other electrical installations; any materials in the property that would allow fire and smoke to spread; facilities to stop fire from spreading, such as fire stops, internal doors, self-closers; any disrepair causing a fire risk; other fire safety equipment such as smoke / heat detectors, fire extinguishers, lightning protection systems; and other fire safety measures like means of escape.

Local authorities have enforcement powers to ask the person responsible to address and remedy any hazards identified in an HHSRS inspection. While EHOs can inspect properties owned by local housing authorities, they cannot take enforcement action. Nevertheless, all registered providers of social housing (this includes councils and housing associations) are required to ensure that their properties are free of any potential category 1 hazards (those hazards that would be high risk and severe under the HHSRS). This is in accordance with social landlords’ obligations under the ‘Homes Standard’ issued by the regulator of social housing, as well as the ‘Decent Homes Standard’.

Where a hazard constitutes a statutory nuisance, local authorities can also carry out any required works themselves and charge the person responsible.

Fire and rescue authorities

Regional fire and rescue authorities (such as the London Fire Brigade) are responsible for enforcing the ‘Fire Safety Order’ in non-domestic buildings. This includes the communal areas of residential blocks, just not the inside of residential properties.

As fire safety authorities, they can enforce landlords’ legal fire safety obligations outside your home and in your building.

Some fire safety authorities also make fire safety visits to evaluate the risk of fire inside your property and provide bespoke advice on identifying and addressing fire risks and hazards. You should contact your local fire safety authority to find out more.

Ombudsman services

If you are dissatisfied as a customer by any of the fire safety services provided by an organisation, you should first make a formal complaint directly to that organisation. In most cases, this will give an opportunity to the organisation to put things right and explain its position to you. If you still remain dissatisfied, you may take your complaint to an Ombudsman. You can find further guidance on our website on how to make a complaint.

Complaints about registered providers of social housing (ie, social housing landlords) may be made to the Housing Ombudsman Service.

Complaints about local authorities (other than when they are acting as your landlord), for example in their environmental health role, may be made to the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman.

Complaints about many other government departments, including the Health and Safety Executive, and the regulator of social housing, may be made to the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman.

Further useful information