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How to keep your rental property fire safe in Scotland

As a private landlord in Scotland you are required to adhere to the Housing (Scotland) Act 2006, which sets out the criteria that must be met if a house is to comply with the Repairing Standard, a concept introduced in Scotland by the Act. One of the criteria is that the house has satisfactory provision for detecting fire, and for giving warning in the event of fire or suspected fire. Whilst we advise all of our landlords on how to make sure their rental properties comply with these guidelines, we have summarised some of the key things to consider below.

According to National Fire Statistics, there are in excess of 7,000 fires reported in dwellings (houses, flats and maisonettes) annually – with approximately 60 deaths and 1700 injuries caused as a direct result every year.

To minimise the chances of a fire occurring, firstly all privately rented properties must comply with the Repairing Standard. To do so, properties should have ‘satisfactory provision’ for detecting fires and providing warning – in other words, a clearly audible and well-located smoke alarm.

What’s more, there are regulations to acknowledge if the property is a new-build or a conversion has taken place. The Repairing Standard notes that PRS landlords should assess what level of alarm is needed in their property, taking into account any building regulations. If a landlord’s alarm/detector does not meet the standard set out by building regulations, they must be able to justify why a lesser level of protection will suffice in that particular property. Reasons for using a lesser level of protection could include proximity to a fireplace, rendering an alarm impractical, or if the cost of installing detectors would be prohibitive. However specific advice on the property concerned should be obtained. Advice on complying with these regulations can be gained from the Private Rented Housing Panel with input from qualified electricians. The justifications for a lesser level of protection seem to be narrowly drawn.

Guidelines suggest that rental properties need to possess one fully-functioning smoke alarm in every room that is used frequently by tenants for general daytime living, as well as one functioning smoke alarm in every circulation space (hallways and landings) and one heat alarm in the kitchen, with all alarms interlinked.

Although having one is recommended as good practice, it must also be noted that the Repairing Standard doesn’t require the use of a carbon monoxide alarm. That being said, as of October last year, when a new or replacement boiler or other fixed heating appliance is installed in a rental property, Scottish building regulations require landlords to install carbon monoxide detectors.

Further guidance for Scottish landlords is to ensure that smoke and heat alarms and detectors are maintained regularly. Additionally, landlords are advised to encourage their tenants to test the alarms on a monthly, if not weekly, basis.

There is also a substantial amount of preparation landlords must undertake before the tenancy starts to get their property fire safe. As well as carrying out an inspection to confirm that the property meets the Repairing Standard, they must provide a new tenant with a copy of a gas safety certificate (required by regulation 36 of the Gas Safety (Installation and Use) Regulations 1998).

It is also encouraged that landlords provide a new tenant with a copy of an appropriate electrical safety certificate, and with a copy of a valid energy performance certificate as required by law.

The full handbook for domestic fire safety, which was amended in 2010, can be found here: http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Topics/Built-Environment/Building/Building-standards/publications/pubtech/th2013dom2).

To help get your property in shape and fire-safe for tenants you can arrange a free Home Fire Safety Visit from The Scottish Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS) at: www.firescotland.gov.uk.

Furthermore, if you would like some advice from professional letting property agents with years of experience, here at Letting Solutions we would be delighted to help. You can contact us on: 0845 520 1420.

If you are thinking about becoming a private landlord you can also see how much your property could fetch in monthly rents using our online free property valuation tool.