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Fire Risk Assessments - Houses & Flats
The Law
Under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 there is an absolute duty to ensure that adequate precautions are taken to implement and maintain fire safety in certain buildings.    
Do I need a Fire Risk Assessment on my house, flat or bedsit?   
Houses - There is generally no requirement to undertake a Fire Risk Assessment on a house that is occupied by the same family or even on a house where there are up to two tenants living with a landlord.  However if the building is deemed to be a House in Multiple Occupation, then a Fire Risk Assessment is required.
House in Multiple Occupation (HMO) - There is an absolute legal duty to undertake a Fire Risk Assessment on HMO’s.  As a simple guide, an HMO is a building where the following applies:
-          A house, flat, apartment, Maisonette, bungalow etc., that is occupied by three or more people who do not live as a single household (family) and where they share a toilet or a bathroom or cooking facilities.
-          A building that has been converted into flats but the conversion does not satisfy the standards set by the Building Regulations 1991 and less than two-thirds of the flats are owner occupied. 
-          A building which has been converted into one or more bedsits or non self contained accommodation, where the bedsits have been rented to 3 or more tenants who are from two or more households where the residents share facilities such as a kitchen or a toilet or a bathroom.
-          A purpose-built block of flats is not an HMO (however, an individual flat within it might be). 
The laws specifying which buildings are HMO’s can be complicated to interpret, with some buildings being exempt from HMO status.  If you are in any doubt you should obtain expert advice or write to your Local Fire and Rescue Authority requesting them to confirm HMO or non HMO status.
Flats - There is an absolute duty to undertake a Fire Risk Assessment on the Common Parts of flats.  Common Parts are the communal areas leading to the flats including the entrance, stairs, landings, escape routes etc.  The Inside of individual flats do not require a fire risk assessment unless they are classified as HMO’s.    
Who is Responsible?
Legislation places the responsibility of fire safety on the ‘Responsible Person(s)’.  This can be anyone who has control of a building and includes those that have a degree of control, such as:
-          The Landlord
-          Leaseholders
-          Any other person who has some control over a part of the building or the Common Parts.  For example a Managing Agent.
The ‘Responsible Person(s)’ may be a number of people who are all legally responsible under the Fire Safety Order.  Duties may be performed in conjunction with the other responsible persons, but it is not a legal defence to state that you believed it was another person’s responsibility.  It is acceptable to undertake the fire safety actions collectively, but you must ensure that this is actually undertaken.
What Should I do?
The Fire Safety Order requires any person who exercises some level of control in a building to take reasonable steps to reduce the risk from fire and ensure occupants can safely escape in the event of fire.  The first step is for a ‘Competent Person’ to undertake a suitable and sufficient Fire Risk Assessment.  You should then act on the findings, maintain standards and equipment in accordance with the law.
Fire Risk Assessments need to be regularly reviewed to ensure they are still relevant.  You do not need to conduct a new Fire Risk Assessment every year, however reassessment would be necessary if any changes had occurred that could have a significant impact on the fire safety, such as a fire incident, refurbishment, changes to common fire safety practice etc.
What does ‘Competent' Person’ mean?
It is a requirement by the Fire Safety Order that a ‘Competent Person’ undertakes Fire Risk Assessments.  A competent person is someone who has sufficient training and experience or knowledge and other qualities.  Therefore to be competent to undertake a Fire Risk Assessment, significant knowledge and experience in the following is required:
-          The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005
-          Risk Assessment  process and knowledge of the risks
-          Fire causes
-          Building construction
-          Structural fire protection materials
-          Means of escape
-          Fire alarms, extinguishers and fire suppression equipment
-          Building Regulations and British Standards
-          Fire safety signage and emergency lighting
-          Human behaviour under fire conditions
-          Fire hazards typical to a building type or process
What does Suitable & Sufficient Mean?
It is a requirement of the Fire Safety Order that a Fire Risk Assessment must be suitable and sufficient.  In practice this requires the assessment to adequately identify the fire risks, identify the people at risk and their location, evaluate the risks, record the findings and actions to be taken, keep the assessment under review.  Failure to complete a suitable and sufficient Fire Risk Assessment means that the Responsible Person(s) could be breaking the law.
Failure to comply with fire safety duties can render the ‘Responsible Person(s)’ to fines of up to £5,000 for summary offences and unlimited fines and or imprisonment for up to two years for indictable offences.
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