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Fire Safety and Regulations for Converted Flats 

If you are a landlord of a converted flat, there are several key fire safety regulations as covered by the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 (FSO) that you should be aware of to ensure you have fulfilled your legal responsibilities and that your tenants are protected in the case of a fire incident. 

To help you achieve regulatory compliance, we’ll discuss the fire regulations for converted flats in more detail below.

Which Acts and Fire Safety Regulations Apply?

In relation to fire safety, the FSO specifies that landlords are only required to conduct a fire risk assessment in the common areas of flats, houses of multiple occupancies (HMOs), sheltered accommodation and maisonettes.

The regulations have been used in unison and further clarified within the LACoRS Guide, which applies to properties such as shared horses, bedsit HMOs and properties constructed in accordance with Building Regulations 1991 but had their primary purpose changed – in this instance, converted into flats.

Fire Safety (England) Regulations 2022 Update

From 23 January 2023, the new and updated  Fire Safety (England) Regulations 2022 are now in place. Changes to the previous FSR regulations were made following the release of the Phase 1 Grenfell Tower Enquiry.

The new fire regulations for flats are designed to improve fire safety in high-rise flats and multi-occupied buildings. They impose new duties for the responsible persons (owners and managers) and aim to make fire safety more cost-effective for the individual leaseholders.

The Responsibilities of the Landlord 

If you are the owner, manager or landlord of a building, you are considered the responsible person when it comes to fire safety and you are legally required to follow all of the fire safety regulations in the UK for flats. Some of the main responsibilities of the landlord include:

  • Conduct a fire risk assessment (FRA) of the building (see more below)
  • Implement fire safety measures (such as providing fire safety equipment and signage)
  • Ensure a fire escape plan is in place and that residents are aware of it 

To execute all your legal duties correctly, you will need to familiarise yourself with all relevant fire safety, fire alarm and fire escape regulations for UK flats, including:

What is a Fire Risk Assessment (FRA)?

A fire risk assessment is an organised inspection of a property and the typical activities that are carried out, as well as the probability of fire and any harm that may be caused by fire to those in the premises and surrounding areas.

The responsibility of organising fire risk assessments is the person in control of the property – such as the landlord or managing agent – with the assessment carried out by the said person, nominated (suitable) employee, or by expert external fire safety experts

Any failure to carry out an effective fire risk assessment or not acting on the recommendations of an FRA can result in large financial fines and even jail time if an injury or death occurs as a result of a preventable fire at the property. 

The Fire Risk Assessment Process

There are five steps to every fire risk assessment – see them below:

1. Identify and write down the fire hazards

2. Identify and write down the people at risk

3. Evaluate the findings of the FRA, remove/reduce risk of fire

4. Plan and train employees/management on fire safety based on findings

5. Review periodically

Whenever there are changes to a building or the overall fire risk, the fire risk assessment should be written down and updated.

Building owners and landlords should also be aware that even buildings of identical structure and layout may show different risk assessment outcomes due to the type of occupants and tenants, such as disabilities which can cause challenges in the event of a fire.

The Responsibilities of the Residents

As we said earlier, the person responsible for managing the building is required by law to put in place all the necessary safety measures and ensure that the tenant knows what to do in the event of a fire. However, building residents also have a responsibility to follow the fire safety guidance. 

What To Do If There’s a Fire 

If you live in rented accommodation, the first thing you can do to protect yourself from fires is to ensure you and everyone in your home are familiar with the fire safety procedures in the building. There should be information notices detailing the fire escape plan in place in all communal areas. Familiarise yourself with those to learn the available escape routes and the fire assembly points. 

If you notice a fire in your flat:

  • Get out of the flat and call 999
  • Leave all valuables behind and exit as quickly as possible
  • Move fast but stay safe – running and pushing can cause injuries
  • Close all doors behind you as you move forward (this will slow down the spread of the fire and smoke)
  • Make sure the front door of your flat is tightly closed to contain the fire as long as possible
  • Follow the emergency exit signs as you head towards the assembly point

If there is a fire in your building but it’s not in your flat, you should still call 999 as soon as possible and follow the instructions of the operator. 

Sometimes, if your flat is not affected by the fire or smoke, you may be safer if you stay in your flat rather than go outside. This is due to the fact that walls, floors and doors in most buildings are designed to hold back fire and give you 30-60 minutes of protection time. The correct procedure should be outlined in the landlord’s fire escape plan, which is why it’s important to familiarise yourself with it before there is an incident. 

However, if there is a fire where you live, you should always stay calm and speak to a 999 operator to get accurate advice. 

Your Fire Escape Plan 

As we mentioned earlier, it is very important that you familiarise yourself with the fire safety escape plan in the building where you live before you find yourself in a situation where you need to evacuate. This will help you make your exit as safely as possible if there is an emergency.

For everyone’s safety, you need to make sure that you are not obstructing the fire escape by following the rules below:

  • Don’t instruct communal areas by placing large objects 
  • Don’t prop open the fire doors
  • Don’t leave your personal belongings in the communal areas, such as stairs, landings and corridors, as they can easily catch fire 
  • Ask permission from the landlord if you want to store bicycles, prams or mobility scooters in communal areas
  • Don’t place flammable materials in cupboards that have electrical circuits
  • Inform your landlord if you spot any items that should not be in the communal areas
  • Make sure your rubbish is put in the bins provided
  • Make sure that the front door closes automatically

Finally, if you or someone you know has reduced mobility and you think that they might struggle with following the current escape plan, you should notify your landlord or building manager immediately. You should also be able to speak to your local fire and rescue service to schedule a free home safety visit and get further advice. 

Structure Fire Safety Standards for Self-Contained Flats

Typically, in converted flats, the main staircase will be used as an escape route and it is required to provide at least 30 minutes of fire resistance, unlike purpose-built flats which require 60 minutes of fire resistance. Also, only one fire door is necessary and usually, that’s the main entrance door to the building.

Even though many of the converted buildings will have legacy fire protection, based on the Building Regulation standards for the conversion to flats; many of the fire safety measures will have been modified, removed or propped open by tenants – dramatically reducing the level of fire protection.

Though all flat conversion projects should consult local councils and fire services prior to any work commencing, generally, all flat entrance doors should be at least 30-minute protection fire doors, with absolutely no PVC or wooden being permitted unless alternative 30-minute fire protection can be proven. 

Interestingly, fire doors must feature no letterboxes or damage and should be self-closing, fitted with smoke seals, intumescent strips and feature escape locks. All doors found to be non-compliant must be replaced as soon as possible.

For buildings that have been converted to self-contained flats that feature a basement, there must be 60 minutes of fire resistance between the basement and ground floor; however, 30 minutes PLUS fire detection may be acceptable where the basement ceiling is in good structural condition. An important point to note is that a basement or cellar may cause a typically two-storey building to a three-storey one under the regulations, so it is advisable to seek guidance from your local council and fire services before commencing any work.

Other crucial elements of the structural fire safety of a house-to-flats conversion are that there must be at least 60 minutes of demonstrable fire resistance between the building and other premises, including shops. Also, any electric metres that are on the staircase exit routes must be completely enclosed in a fire-resistant housing unit, and the staircase itself must be completely free of obstructions and combustible materials.

Fire Alarm Systems

Any converted flats that were done so before the commencement of the 1991 Building Regulations require no detection but do require fire separation methods. Those converted to flats after the introduction of the 1991 regulations often follow the guidance and advice to install mains-connected phased smoke detection systems, which provide high levels of protection whilst reducing the number of false alarms.

You should contract out fire safety professionals to design and install a mixed detection system, comprising of:

  • Mains-operated fire detection and alarm system, which is designed and installed to BS 5839 Part 6 Grade D and Category LD2, with all individual detectors being interlinked to a centralised system
  • A single-point optical smoke detector is installed inside each flat, but not connected to the main system – reducing false alarms
  • Remote hush feature to be installed into the main, centralised fire alarm system in a secure location
  • For systems comprising more than 14 detectors, an automatic panel-controlled fire alarm or radio linking should be considered.

Buy Fire Alarms Here

Emergency Lighting

Under the fire regulation for converted flats, emergency lighting should be installed on all escape routes, such as stairways, as per BS 5266 Part 1: 1999 Code of Practice. Regular emergency light testing should be carried out, as well. 

Buy Emergency Lighting Here

Equipment for Fire Extinguishing

At a minimum, each flat in a building conversion should have a usable fire blanket located in every kitchen (learn how to use a fire blanket here). However, fire extinguishers add an extra layer of protection that is worth considering. 

Buy a fire extinguisher or a fire blanket 

Testing and Maintenance

All fire alarms should be tested by the landlord/tenant at least once per week. Annual fire alarm servicing – performed by a competent person, should be conducted to be compliant with BS 5839 and should include cleaning each detection and sounding unit.

It is advisable to replace the fire detector head every 10 years, as this is the longest guaranteed lifespan of the standby battery. Where buildings are empty or where the mains power has been disconnected, the fire alarm and detection system should still be tested to observe that the power supply and standby power are still operational, if necessary in the future.

Was our guide on fire safety and regulations for converted flats helpful? Next, learn about

The Fire Triangle | Motorhome Fire Safety | Fire Extinguisher Types 

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