What fire safety measures do landlords need for properties in Scotland?
Anyone renting a home from a landlord will clearly want it to be fire-safe as well as comfortable and safe in other ways.
That’s why there’s been fire safety regulations in Scotland for landlords since 1987.
And it’s worked – statistics show homes where smoke alarms raise the alarm led to the fire being discovered within five minutes and the fire leading to fewer casualties.
If you’re new to renting to others, what do you need to know and do to comply with the law and protect your tenants?
To be legally let in Scotland, the home currently needs to comply with ‘the Repairing Standard’ set out in Section 13(1) of the Housing (Scotland) Act 2006 as amended by the (Tolerable Standard) (Extension of Criterion) Order 2019.
One part of the Repairing Standard is that a house should have “satisfactory provision” for detecting fires and for giving warning in the event of fire or suspected fire. The 2019 Order included a new element covering smoke and heat alarms.
What you need
The criteria for to meet the standard for “satisfactory equipment for detecting fire and giving warning in the event of fire or suspected fire” are defined in the guidance:
- One smoke alarm in the room most frequently used for general daytime living purposes - normally the Living Room/Lounge
- One smoke alarm in every “circulation space” on each storey, such as hallways and landings
- One heat alarm in every kitchen
- All smoke and heat alarms have to be ceiling-mounted
- All smoke and heat alarms have to be interlinked
- Carbon Monoxide (CO) detectors to be fitted in all rooms where there is a fixed combustion appliance (excluding an appliance used solely for cooking) or a flue.
- Mains-operated alarms (with battery backup) are allowed and tamper proof long-life lithium battery alarms (i.e. not user-replaceable) are also ok.
- Alarms should be regularly maintained and tested in accordance with manufacturer’s instructions.
- Smoke alarms : These need to conform with the definition: “A fire detector that detects smoke as a primary indication of fire. It produces an audible and/or visible signal locally in a room or a home.” Smoke alarms must conform to BS EN 14604. For more detailed information on smoke alarms, see BS 5839 Part 6.
- Heat alarms: These need to conform with the definition: “A fire detector that detects the presence of fire by monitoring the changes in temperature associated with combustion. It produces an audible and/or visible signal locally in a room or a home.” Heat alarms must conform to BS 5446-2. For more detailed information on heat alarms, see BS 5839 Part 6. Their use should be restricted to rooms in which smoke alarms would cause false alarms (e.g. kitchens) because heat alarms operate later than smoke alarms.
- Multi-sensor alarm: These need to conform with the definition: “A fire detector that detects the presence of fire by monitoring more than one phenomenon of fire (e.g. smoke and heat).” Multi-sensor alarms should conform to BS EN 54-29 or BS EN 14604.
- Ceiling mounting: All smoke and heat alarms should be ceiling mounted, unless otherwise indicated as suitable for wall mounting in spaces of limited area (e.g. hallways) by the manufacturer.
- Interconnection: The definition stated is: “Interconnected alarms which communicate with each other and form an integrated system of protection in the home, so that when one alarm detects a fire, all alarms operate simultaneously.” Alarms can be linked via wires (hardwired) or wirelessly (by radio waves, like your wifi). When adding to an existing hardwired system, care should be taken to ensure that all the alarms are interlinked, with all alarms sounding when any one sensor is activated.
- Carbon Monoxide (CO) detectors: These need to conform with the definition: “A device that detects the presence of CO in a concentration that is hazardous to health, giving an audible, and in some cases visible, warning.” CO detectors should comply with BS EN 50291 and be powered by a battery designed to operate for the working life of the detector. It should include a warning device to alert tenants when its working life is due to end. Hard-wired mains-operated CO detectors complying with BS EN 50291 (Type A) with fixed wiring (not plug in-types) can be used as an alternative, as long as they’re fitted with a sensor failure warning device. The detector should be regularly maintained and tested in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions.
- Exceptions: The 2019 Order says in Section 16.12. “In some buildings, it may not be practical to fit fire and smoke alarms to this exact standard. There may be instances where the number of alarms specified would not be required to meet the standard, such as a kitchen/diner or open plan layout. Assessors should take account of the layout and design of the building, and any advice given by a competent person. Further information can be found in the Building Standards Domestic Technical Handbook.”
Changes in February 2022
In the wake of the Grenfell Tower tragedy, here in Scotland the Scottish Government created a Working Group on Building and Fire Safety to review Scotland’s building and fire safety regulatory frameworks. Its recommendations were made law in January 2019 in the above-reference Order in 2019.
From 1 February 2022 an amendment to the “statutory tolerable standard” comes into force under section 86 of the Housing (Scotland) Act 1987. It will require that all houses, whether they’re owned by the occupiers or someone else, must have “satisfactory provision” for detecting fires and for giving warning in the event of a fire or a suspected fire.
This will bring the same protection level for all homes, regardless of whether the occupier owns it, so from 1 February 2022, landlords should refer to the Scottish Government’s guidance on the tolerable standard, Chapter 16: Satisfactory Fire Detection.
The updated regulation for all homes essentially applies the same fire, smoke and carbon monoxide alarm criteria which applied to landlords, to those responsible for all homes.
- One smoke alarm installed in the room “most frequently used for general daytime living purposes” - normally the living room/lounge
- One smoke alarm in every circulation space on each storey – e.g. hallways and landings;
- One heat alarm in every kitchen
- All smoke and heat alarms have to be ceiling-mounted and interlinked.
- Where there is a carbon-fuelled appliance (such as a boilers, fire or heater) or a flue, a carbon monoxide detector is also required. But it doesn’t need to be linked to the fire alarms.
Extra sensible measures
You can and should do more to protect your tenants by following these tips:
- Have an alarm within 7 metres (22 feet) of the Living Room door and 3 metres (9 feet) of a bedroom door
- Fit smoke sensors in the bedrooms too – this can help protect everyone while you sleep
- Fit sensors anywhere else you think a fire may start because of what’s there
- Keep alarm sensors at least 30cm (12 inches) away from any walls, lights, doors, heating or air-conditioning vents – so as to avoid false alarms
- Try not to fit smoke alarms too close to the kitchen door – steam and cooking fumes are the most common cause of false alarms. You can buy smoke alarms designed for use close to kitchens. Others have ‘silence’ buttons to stop the alarm sounding for a while as the air clears.
- Test the alarm to make sure you can hear it clearly from every room in the house, even with the doors closed
When it comes to commercial premises, it’s best to follow the advice of the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service and Scottish Government and get professional advice on sensor locations – to both detect any fires and minimise your commercial insurance premiums.
In a business setting responsibility for complying with the Fire (Scotland) Act 2005 and the linked Fire Safety (Scotland) Regulations 2006 falls on the ‘Duty Holder’. They may be the owner or top executive or any person who may have control “to any extent of any part of the premises”.
If you are the Duty Holder, you must carry out a fire risk assessment of all premises which must focus on the safety of all 'relevant persons' in case of fire.
Your fire risk assessment will help you identify the nature and extent of the fire risks on-site and the general fire precautions, including heat and smoke sensors, you need to take to protect people and assets against the risks identified. If you employ five or more people, you must record the significant findings of your risk assessment.
For details of non-domestic fire safety regulations in Scotland, read this page on the Scottish Government website. Or give us a call for a chat and arrange an assessment.
Get in touch
Fraser Fire & Security provides fire safety and security services across Aberdeen, Aberdeenshire, Moray and Inverness. For more information get in touch.