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What the Fire Safety Regulations say about fire doors in rented properties

Posted 1/03/2022 by Reeds Rains
Categories: Landlords
Row of houses

As it currently stands, fire doors are only a nationwide legal requirement for Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs). So, if you’re an HMO landlord, all the doors in your property that lead to an escape route must be fire resistant and close automatically. It’s also advised that fire doors are fitted to rooms where there is a high risk of fire starting, such as the kitchen. As such, it’s advisable to fit fire doors throughout your HMO, so you can be sure you’re fulfilling your obligations.

For other types of rented property, you’re not required by law to have any fire doors. The exception is where a selective licensing scheme is in place in England, in which case the local council may place certain fire safety obligations on landlords, which could include fire doors. If you have a single-let property that doesn’t require a license, you might nevertheless choose to fit fire doors and we’d suggest it may be a good idea to have one for the kitchen.

Because all fire doors must close automatically, they have to be fitted with a closer that attaches to both the door and the wall and prevents them from being left open.  In high-traffic areas, such as the kitchen or living room, where it might be inconvenient to have the door constantly shut, you can fit sound-triggered or hard-wired retainers. These are units that fit to the wall and hold the door open with a magnet. Then, if the fire alarm system is triggered, they automatically release and the closer shuts the door.

Fire alarms

Obviously, it’s important that the smoke and heat alarms function properly, so here’s a summary of the regulations:

England & Wales - Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarm (England) Regulations 2015

  • At least one working smoke alarm on each floor of a rental property
  • A carbon monoxide alarm in all rooms that have a solid fuel-burning appliance (e.g. coal fire or wood-burning stove)
  • Every alarm must be checked at the start of each new tenancy to make sure it’s working – and ideally get your tenants to sign a document to confirm this has been done
  • Good practice guidance is to test the alarms during periodical inspections

For HMOs:

  • A smoke alarm on each storey with living accommodation
  • A smoke alarm in each individual ‘unit’ – whether that’s a bedroom or bedsit
  • A heat alarm in high-risk rooms, such as kitchens
  • Alarms must be interconnected and mains powered
  • Properties of three storeys or higher must have an appropriate alarm system with a central panel
  • The alarm system must be kept in good working order and have maintenance carried out according to the manufacturer’s instructions – commonly every six months
  • Evidence of regular checking/servicing must be provided to the local authority on request

It’s also worth noting that any door on an escape route that locks, should have a ‘thumb-turn’ lock on the inside that enables it to be opened without a key. So that will generally apply to the front door and any back or side doors.

Some common questions we get from landlords about fire doors:

What kind of fire door should I fit?

There are a few different options to choose from – the important thing is that it’s made of solid timber and has a label or plug confirming that it’s been certified as a fire door. The label will have an ‘FD’ rating, which tells you how many minutes of fire the door can withstand. The most common is FD30 – that’s 30 minutes.

The door should have an intumescent seal around the edges, which will expand in the heat of a fire and seal the gaps between the door and frame. Importantly, the door frame should be manufactured to the same standard as the fire door so there’s no risk of it burning away more quickly than the door.

How much do fire doors cost?

A single plain door alone can start at around £90, but a basic FD30 fire door set – with a plain door, intumescent seals, frame, hinges, handle with latch and overhead closer – should cost around £450, incl. VAT (safelincs.co.uk). If you want something more aesthetically pleasing, moulded panels on the door will add about £80 to the cost and a door retainer should be in the region of £100.

If you use a contractor with a trade account and you’re buying multiple doors, you should be able to reduce your costs. But as long as the doors don’t get damaged, the investment should last up to 20 years. 

Do fire doors have to remain shut at all times?

Strictly speaking, no, but they must be shut if a fire breaks out – hence the option of fitting sound-triggered or hard-wired retainers. So it’s vital you emphasise to your tenants that they must not:

  • Prop fire doors open - with a chair or a wedge, for example
  • Remove the automatic closer
  • Disable any retainer that has been fitted.

In the case of HMOs and other licensed properties, be aware that if fire door regulations are not followed, it could cause an issue with the validity of your license and may also invalidate your insurance in the case of any claim for fire damage.

If you have specific questions about fire doors or any other aspect of fire safety for your rental property, do speak to your local Reeds Rains branch or, if you prefer, you can contact your local fire department and ask if it’s possible for a Fire Safety Officer to visit and assess the property.

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