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Fire safety in HMOs

Find out what you need to do about fire safety if you are the landlord of an HMO.

Assessing the risks

We check fire safety conditions using the most up-to-date guidance for HMOs. This includes the Fire Safety, Guidance on Fire Safety Provisions published by LACORS and the British Standard:5839 Part 6 (2019).

We may ask you to meet other standards after we have inspected your property.  We will take a risk-based approach using the legal guidelines.

The risks tend to vary according to the type of housing. See categories below. Download our icon fire safety at-a-glance checklist of requirements [184.67KB] .

Shared houses

Shared houses are generally smaller HMOs. They are typically two storey properties. They have a simple layout and design and the tenants are together in a group under one joint tenancy. Living arrangements will be like a single household.  

Non-shared house accommodation

There is generally a higher fire risk linked with this category than in a shared house:

In a non-shared house there are shared facilities, such as a shared kitchen. But all occupants live independently of each another on separate tenancies.

Bedsits

Bedsits present the highest fire risk.

Bedsits are HMOs where occupiers have cooking facilities inside their bedroom. They may share bathroom facilities.

Fire precautions - automatic fire detection

All mains-wired smoke/heat detectors must have built-in battery back-up.

Shared house

You need a Grade D LD2 system conforming to BS:5839 Part 6 (2019). This will involve:

  • a smoke alarm on each communal hallway/landing and all communal risk rooms 
  • a heat alarm in the kitchen 
  • the smoke and heat alarms should be mains wired and linked to a sound alarm. 

Non-shared house - (separate tenancies)

You need a Grade LD2/mixed system conforming to BS:5839 Part 6 (2019). You need interlinked mains-wired smoke alarms in the communal hallway, communal risk rooms. You also need a heat alarm in the kitchen.

You will also need smoke detection inside individual bedrooms. Smoke detection inside individual bedrooms can be powered by long-life batteries. It can be interlinked to all other bedroom detectors wirelessly.

Battery powered detectors must be:

  • brought from a reputable source
  • installed following manufacturers' recommendations
  • routinely tested
  • tamperproof.

Bedsits - (cooking facilities inside individual bedrooms)

1-2 Storeys

You will need: Grade D, LD2-mixed system: mains-wired and interlinked smoke detectors on all levels and in communal risk rooms such as lounges/utilities.

Any extra communal kitchens need a mains wired and interlinked heat detector. Individual bedrooms (with cooking equipment) need a mains-wired standalone smoke detector. They also need a mains-wired, interlinked heat detector.

3+ Storeys

You will need: Grade A, LD2-mixed system: mains-wired and interlinked smoke detectors on all levels and inside communal risk rooms such as lounges/utilities.

Any extra communal kitchens need a mains-wired and interlinked heat detector. Individual bedrooms (with cooking equipment) need a mains-wired standalone smoke detector. They also need a mains-wired, interlinked heat detector.

All smoke/heat detectors to be connected to a Grade-A fire panel. The system should be inspected and tested at 6 monthly intervals by a competent person. The tester should issue an inspection and testing certificate. All tests should be recorded in a logbook.

Emergency lighting

Emergency lighting is not normally needed in small, low risk HMOs. There may be some cases where emergency lighting may be needed, for example if:

  • the escape route is complicated or long
  • there is not enough borrowed light
  • there are vulnerable occupiers.

You must maintain and test any emergency lighting annually using BS 5266: Part 1:2005.

Escape routes

Doors and door furniture

All final exit doors and doors that open to the escape route (that are required to be kept locked) shall be fitted with a type of lock that can be easily and quickly opened from the inside without the use of a key.

Shared houses and non-shared houses

In a shared house, doors opening to the escape route need to be solid and of traditional construction. Panels must not be less than 3mm, and not broken or defective. Composite, hollow panel (egg-box) doors (on the escape route) are prohibited.

Bedsits

A 30-minute fire door must comply with BS 476: Part 22 (1987) and BS 476-31-1:1983 and BS 8214: (2016).

The fire door specifications are:

  • three x 100mm brass or steel butt hinges
  • an intumescent strip rebated into both edges and top, fitted either to the door or frame
  • 35 x 12.5mm door stops glued and screwed at 300mm centres
  • smoke seals fitted to the door or frame
  • the door must have overhead door closers capable of closing the door onto the latch. 
  • door closers must conform to BS EN 1154: 1997. 
  • all door furniture must be metal
  • the gap between door and frame must not exceed 3mm at any point.

Inner rooms

Inner rooms are bedrooms that enter or exit directly into a risk room. These might be a shared lounge or kitchen. Inner rooms should be avoided where possible and ideally the outer room should not be an area of high risk.

Where inner rooms cannot be avoided, you must have extra fire safety measures, such as:

  • the inner room has access to a suitable door or window opening onto an alternative safe escape route
  • escape windows must not be more than 4.5m above ground level, or 1.5m above the bedroom floor level 
  • escape windows must have an escape window leading directly to a place of ultimate safety. Ultimate safety is an area where tenants can escape to that is far enough from the HMO to stay safe in an emergency. It's defined as a distance at least as far as the house is tall. This could be the back of a rear garden that is longer (or as long) as the house is tall.   
  • the escape window must have an unobstructed openable area. It must be at least 0.33m² and have a minimum 450mm height and 450mm width
  • all alternative escapes must have a lock that is quickly and easily opened from inside without the use of a key
  • an adequate automatic fire detection and warning system is in place. This will include extension of the smoke alarm/detection system into the inner room. This is to make sure the occupant is alerted to a fire in the high risk outer room
  • a FD30(S) door is fitted between the inner and outer rooms.

Inner rooms due to layout and design (open plan)

This is when the main escape route (stairs) discharges through the current communal living area (risk room).

We would prefer you to have a stud wall partition with a door and frame separating staircase and risk room. This is create a protected escape route (corridor).

The above works show the best way of reducing risks linked with the escape route discharging through a high risk room. There may be other solutions. Contact us for more advice by emailing customerservices@guildford.gov.uk or calling 01483 505050. 

Under stairs and cupboards

High risk items such as whitegoods under the stairs should be moved into a communal risk room. If this isn't practical, the stairs should be underdrawn to give 30 minutes' fire resistance.

The door to the under stairs cupboard should be a solid door. It should not be fitted with smoke brushes or intumescent strips. We will look at where the nearest smoke detectors are and their ability to sound in an emergency.

Whitegoods and storage on escape routes

Escape routes should not contain any sources of ignition. Appliances such as tumble driers and washing machines should be moved into risk rooms, unless this is not practical.

Appliances are commonly left on overnight to take advantage of lower energy tariffs. This is the most dangerous time for a fire to start.

Avoid the storage of other electrical and flammable items.