With the many exciting distractions of life in a student property, fire and electrical safety are unlikely to feature high on the list of priorities. However, it vital that certain safety standards are upheld.
Laws Ensuring Tenant Safety
Fire and electrical safety is a major issue in private rented accommodation, so much so that the government has gone to the trouble of publishing laws to protect tenants.
The laws that affect student residents depend on the number of people in the property. If two or more students occupy the accommodation then it is referred to as a ‘House in Multiple Occupation’ (HMO), whereas, if you are on your own or with another person, or your partner or family, then this is referred to as a non-HMO.
To stay on the right side the law, the landlord of a HMO property must provide:
- Automatic fire alarm and detection system
- Fire fighting equipment
- Sufficient fire precautions and means of escape
- Safe electrical installation
- Emergency lighting.
Fire Warning and Prevention
As a student resident you should therefore expect to see smoke detector ‘heads’ in the hall, on the landing, and in every room apart from the bathroom. In order to help put any fires out, there should be at least one fire blanket and fire extinguisher in the kitchen.
In accordance with the law, the landlord should also have paid particular attention to the doors in the property. All internal doors, apart from the bathroom, should have automatic door closers, and be tight fitting with strips around the edges. If thought has been given to the privacy of residents and locks have been fitted on bedroom doors then there should be no keyhole on the inner side, to enable inhabitants to exit quickly in an emergency. For the same reason the front door should also have no keyhole on the inside.
You should be able to find user guides to any electrical appliances in the property as well as a copy of an electrical safety test certificate issued by an NICEIC – or similarly recognised – qualified engineer. The appliances themselves should display PAT test stickers that provide 12 months’ safety notice.
It is also worth keeping an eye for signs of poor electrical standards such as cracked sockets, switches or light fittings and worn flexes. Needless to say though, residents should maintain their own electrical safety standards by not plugging too many appliances to one socket, or doing their own DIY repairs on any appliances or sockets.
If the student house is lacking in all these areas then it is advisable to avoid it and move on to a property that isn’t.
However, the fire and electrical safety of a student house is not entirely the responsibility of the landlord. They may have been following the necessary guidelines in making sure their property is safe but their efforts can be easily compromised by irresponsible resident behaviour.
First and foremost student residents should not do anything to impede the implementation and operation of these safety measures. For example, as long as landlords provide 24 hour written notice, then they should be allowed to enter the property to service extinguishers or the fire detection systems.
Student housemates are renowned for doing all manner of crazy things when imbued with the joys of youth and a drop of alcohol, but there are a few areas where even they should draw the line.
High spirits are no excuse for tampering with any fire extinguishers or the smoke detector heads. These things are provided to help save the lives of the occupants in the event of a fire.
Students are also advised not to block any main house thoroughfares, such as the landing or hallway, or negate the effectiveness of the door safety features by propping open bedroom doors or disconnecting the automatic door closer.