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5 Oct, 2023

From 1 October 2023, owners of small paying guest accommodation in England and Wales need to meet new fire safety regulations. With these new rules in place, short let properties such as AirBnbs and guest houses now have to meet the same fire safety regulations as hotels and bedsits.

This is the first time that short let properties have been regulated in this way, so owners are bound to have questions about the new law. To help you stay safe and compliant, this guide will explain in simple terms the new fire safety legal provisions within section 156 of the Building Safety Act 2022.

Quick context to fire safety law

The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 has gone through a number of changes and amendments since it was first introduced. Phase one of these amendments constituted the Fire Safety Act 2021, while Phase 2 was the Fire Safety (England) Regulations 2022. These new regulations that came into effect at the start of October 2023 are Phase 3 of the Home Office’s fire safety reform programme. These new fire regulations aim to strengthen safety in a number of different types of premises including short stay holiday lets.

Who does the new short let fire safety regulations affect?

The new fire safety rules apply to all holiday homes in England and Wales. This includes small bed and breakfast guest houses and self-catering apartments. Even if you just rent out a room to a paying guest for a single night, you need to follow these fire regulations for holiday lets.

Previously, small paying guest accommodation with fewer than five employees did not have to record fire safety risk assessments, although they still needed to have fire doors and smoke alarms. However, with the rise of AirBnb and other letting sites, the change in rules means that many people who list rooms or parts of their property for short term holiday stays will have to comply with these stricter new rules.

With an estimated 257,000 short term holiday letting listings across the UK in 2022, these new regulations for holiday lets will undoubtedly have a major impact.

So, what exactly are the new rules?

Fire risk assessment

Because people staying in a holiday let are unfamiliar with the accommodation and its fire risks, it’s especially important that the responsible person carries out a comprehensive fire risk assessment.

Owners must conduct a suitable and sufficient fire risk assessment of their premises, record findings, and review it regularly. This assessment should be specific to the premises, considering potential hazards and the needs of guests. For example, if the property is likely to be used by elderly or disabled people and young children, this should be accounted for in the risk assessment.

While there’s no legal requirement for a specialist fire risk assessor in many small holiday lets, fire risk assessments should be carried out by someone with a good understanding of the assessment and how to apply the guidance to their property. Owners who do not feel confident carrying out their own fire risk assessment may consider hiring a specialist to evaluate potential fire risks and provide guidance.

To find out more about using an experienced fire risk assessor,contact us today.

Reducing the risk of fire hazards

Carrying out the fire risk assessment is not enough – property owners also need to take action to reduce identified hazards. Common hazards within paying guest accommodation may include:

  • Electrical appliances:Electrical installations should be checked by qualified contractors, and appliances should be regularly inspected. For electrical safety, extension cables and adaptors should be avoided where possible.
  • Smoking: Smoking is a common cause of fatal fires so it’s essential that you clearly define and communicate the property’s smoking policy. This includes e-cigarettes.
  • Heating: Avoid portable heaters wherever possible and ensure that heating and hot water systems are annually reviewed by a qualified contractor. It’s important to keep heaters away from main fire exit routes and combustible materials.
  • Cooking: Provide instructions for using cooking appliances safely and ensure that they are kept well maintained and clean. Cleaning extract filters and servicing gas appliances is key.
  • Candles: Prohibit the use of candles and tea lights by guests and clearly communicate this policy.
  • Housekeeping: Keep combustible materials away from ignition and heat sources and away from escape routes. Ensure that guests know how and where to dispose of domestic waste.
  • Furniture: Make sure that items in the property comply with the Furniture and Furnishings Fire Safety Regulations 1988.
  • Arson: Keep bins away from windows and doors to the property, and secure entrances to reduce the risk of unauthorised access.

Fire protection measures

As well as managing risks, owners are responsible for ensuring adequate fire safety measures, such as escape routes and fire alarm systems, are provided should a fire start. Fire safety measures should be proportionate to the specific risks of the premises, considering factors like building type and the number of guests. General recommendations include the following (although not all will be relevant to every property):

  • Escape routes: These should lead directly to safety and should be kept clear of obstructions.
  • Doors: Many properties will need to install 30-minute fire-resisting doors. Exit doors should be easy to open.
  • Escape lighting: Emergency escape lighting for use in situations of a mains failure are recommended for hallways and staircases that might otherwise be very dark. Check the visibility of your main fire escape routes without lights on (eg. can guests easily see by the light of nearby street lamps or is it completely dark?).
  • Fire escape signs: Generally in a small holiday let it will be clear where the escape routes are, but if they are not obvious you should use fire escape signs and provide information to guests about these.
  • Fire fighting equipment: If there are staff on the premises they should be trained to use equipment like fire extinguishers and fire blankets. For self-catering accommodation, providing a fire blanket or fire extinguisher may be a good idea but do not install a powder fire extinguisher.
  • Fire alarms and smoke detectors: There should be interlinked domestic smoke alarms and heat alarms in areas where a fire might start. There should be a smoke alarm in hallways, corridors, staircases, lounges, dining rooms and bedrooms, while a heat alarm should be put in kitchens and utility or laundry rooms. There’s usually no need for the more sophisticated detection systems found in larger hotels.
  • Fire escape plan: A plan drawing or instructions to reach the nearest exit should be provided to guests to help them leave the building by the nearest available exit route.

Regularly reviewing fire safety measures and procedures

It’s important that fire safety equipment and procedures are regularly reviewed and maintained. For example, there should be daily checks of exit routes to make sure they are not obstructed (in the case of accommodation where the owner or staff is on-site). Weekly checks of fire alarm systems and fire doors are also important, while monthly checks of emergency lighting systems and exit doors are valuable.

Some of this will need to be carried out by a contractor, such as sire detection and alarm systems. All testing and maintenance should be recorded in alog book.

Where can I find out more about the new fire safety regulations for holiday lets?

The government has published aguide for small paying guest accommodation owners to comply with the new regulations. For more advice, you can check out thisguide to fire safety risk assessments for sleeping accommodation. If you have further questions, feel free to ask the MCFP team!

Need help with your fire risk assessment and safety measures?

If you’re looking for fire safety guidance or a specialist to carry out a fire risk assessment in your short term holiday let, you’ve come to the right place. The team at MCFP are happy to help ensure you’ve taken the necessary fire safety provisions for your property. Get in touch with us today to find out more about our fire risk assessment,fire alarm installation and maintenance, and fire extinguisher servicing!