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New Landlord Fire Risk considerations


Guest Steve

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Hi,

I am a first-time landlord looking at fire risk considerations for a small, two-storey, two-bedroom, terraced house (currently unoccupied), and would be most grateful for some assistance.

The occupancy will most likely be single; or possibly a couple or small family. Even if it were to attract a share, it would be small-scale and not an HMO scenario. The FSO (2005) would not apply.

I have been looking at the LACORS guidance for single household/shared houses and although it generally points to a ‘lower’/’normal’ risk for this type of property/occupancy and suggests some areas where standards can be ‘relaxed’, nevertheless the layout of my property differs from the case study. I would be grateful for help with clarifying some points in respect of this.       

The downstairs layout is two rooms (lounge and kitchen) with the lounge at the front. There is traditional separation between the two rooms via wall and solid pine panelled internal door. The kitchen opens to the back garden via an external back door.

The upstairs layout is orthodox with the doors to the two bedrooms and the bathroom each exiting on to a small landing.

Where the layout differs from the LACORS case study (D1) is that the staircase is open to the lounge. You descend from the first-floor landing with the adjoining wall to the neighbouring house to your right and the bannister/balustrade to your left. Once the stairs get below the level of the landing/lounge ceiling they are open to the lounge to the left of the bannister/balustrade. The distance across the floor from the bottom stair to the front door (final exit) immediately in front is just 1.65 metres - this area is effectively part of the lounge floor, as there is no door separating it from the lounge, so no separate hallway.

I would be grateful for some confirmation on the following:

1.       Although the stairs lead directly to a final exit just 1.65m away from the bottom stair, my understanding would be that, due to the downstairs layout, they would still be deemed as passing through a risk room (lounge)?

2.       Would this be considered an open-plan layout (or a form of), given that the stairs are open to the lounge, even though the kitchen is traditionally separated from the lounge?

3.       Subject to the answers to 1 and 2, above; would this (possibly open-plan) type of layout make the upper-floor bedrooms ‘inner-rooms’ because the escape route would be passing through another room (lounge).

3A. The reason for asking is that the BSI document BS5588-1: 1990 ‘Fire Precautions in the design, construction and use of buildings, Part 1’ states that (for single-family dwelling houses): ‘In an open-plan dwelling, unless the stairway is enclosed, the upper-floor bedrooms will be inner rooms and hence need to be provided with openable windows or a door to a balcony’.

Further - LACORS - in addition to stating that escape windows are necessary where an inner room is a sleeping room, also states that the inner room ‘should only be accepted if…a fire-resisting door of an appropriate standard is fitted between the inner and outer rooms (typically FD30S standard for non-high-risk outer rooms)’.

I was aware that I probably need to look at escape window provision for the two bedrooms; but was not expecting a fire door to be a compulsory. Having said that, I am not 100% clear regarding the definitions of ‘open-plan’ and ‘inner room’ and whether they apply to my layout and would be grateful for some clarification and guidance on this, and on what fire risk precautions would be advisable for the layout I have described.   

 4.       Regarding ‘means of escape’ – LACORS states ‘most residential premises covered by the guide will be considered as ‘normal’ risk’, but subject to other factors being equal, such as the occupants being able-bodied, and the layout being satisfactory etc.

Would the layout I have described generally be considered poor, and if so, would this be poor enough to push the property up to a higher-than-normal risk?

There are mains (interlinked) smoke alarms (one on each floor); travel distances are short and reasonable; and the external doors (lounge and kitchen) have keyless thumb-turn locks.

As a 1990-build, the house would NOT have come under the Building Regulations 1991, approved document B.

Many thanks in anticipation.

 

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If it's still the layout it was built with then it will comply with the Building Regulations in place at the time of build which means if not using for a licensable purpose mean there are no retrospective fire safety requirements in law beyond those relating to automatic fire detection and things like the Gas Safe and Electrical Installation Condition Report requirements.

If you change any windows (e.g. original wood to uPVC) this comes under Building Regulations and a reputable company would, as part of the installer self certification scheme for certain types of building work, ensure the appropriate escape & rescue windows are supplied.

Any other structural changes would also come under Building Regs and it is at that point that current ADB requirements may be imposed depending on the nature of the work.

Best practice would have you add a heat alarm to the kitchen, interlinked to the existing ones

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  • 3 weeks later...
Guest Steve

A further thought has occurred to me.

If a Fire Risk Assessment conducted along LACORS guidelines highlights an issue of high fire risk and stipulates solutions, would a landlord not have to act on these, irrespective of which building regulations were in place at the time of the build and whether using for a licensable purpose or not?

It seems that the LACORS guidance – in being aimed squarely at properties constructed prior to the Building Regulations 1991 (including single household) – is retrospective in its essence. Would it not, therefore, compel a landlord to act retrospectively?

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LACORS is quite old and any modern conversion that went through the correct Building Control process should have equal or greater standards in place in any case (& as part of the Building Regulation 38 requirements include a fire strategy plan). If it doesn't meet even LACORS standards then I'd wonder about whether the original conversion was into 4 bed single family flats with a further change to HMO use added later.

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