When everyone has a home

Housing advice for Northern Ireland

Fire safety responsibilities

Some landlords have to make sure there are adequate fire precautions and escape routes. However, not all properties are required to have the same level of fire safety.  Most of the information on this page is only relevant if you live in a House of Multiple Occupation (HMO).

The Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service may carry out fire safety checks free of charge if someone in the property is elderly or has a serious illness or disability.  In some cases, the fire service will also fit a smoke or fire detector in your home.  Visit the NIFRS website to arrange a home safety check.

Tenant rights

Most tenants who are concerned about a lack of fire precautions or escape routes have few rights. The only way to deal with a problem over fire precautions is to negotiate with your landlord.

If your landlord has not provided a smoke alarm or other fire safety materials, you could ask for these to be installed. It may make it difficult for a landlord to claim on an insurance policy if the property is damaged in fire if no preventative measures have been taken.

If your landlord refuses to install a smoke alarm, contact the Fire Service who may be able to carry out a fire safety check and supply you with a free smoke detector, if you have a low income.

However, if you live in a house in multiple occupation (HMO) your landlord has to comply with certain fire safety standards. You could live in a HMO if you live in

  • a house split into separate bedsits
  • a house let as lodgings
  • a shared house or flat
  • a hostel
  • a bed and breakfast hotel which is not just for holidays.

Fire safety in HMOs

HMOs should be fitted with fire warning systems such as fire alarms and heat or smoke detectors. These should be placed throughout the building but particularly in escape routes and areas of high risk such as kitchens. The fire warning system should be serviced and checked regularly.

Fire equipment such as extinguishers and fire blankets should be provided. There should be at least one fire extinguisher on each floor and a fire blanket in every shared kitchen. These have to be checked periodically.

Fire escapes in HMOs

HMOs should have an escape route that can resist fire, smoke and fumes long enough for everyone to leave (usually at least 30 minutes). This could be an external fire escape, or internal stairs, corridors or walkways that are specially constructed or treated to resist fire.

All the walls, ceilings, floors and partitions along the escape route must be fire resistant. All the doors leading to the escape route must be doors which are fire resistant and close automatically.

Overcrowding in HMOs

Your landlord must make sure that the number of people living in the building does not make it unsafe. Whether a building is overcrowded or not depends on the size of the building and the amount of facilities such as kitchens and bathrooms.

Living in an unsafe HMO

If you live in a HMO and you think your landlord is not fulfilling her/his responsibilities complain to the Housing Executive. The Housing Executive can prosecute landlords of HMOs and in extreme cases can take over the management of the property.

Reducing the risk of fire

There are things that you can do to minimise risks to you in your home, such as:

  • plan what to do in case of fire and be aware of all escape routes
  • make sure that smoke alarms are fitted and in working order
  • make sure that exit routes are clear
  • check that all appliances have been switched off and unplugged before you go to bed
  • report any faulty equipment or problems to your landlord immediately.

Fire safety standards for furniture

All landlords who rent furnished accommodation must make sure that the furniture they provide is fire resistant. This applies to all furniture provided after 1 March 1993 regardless of when your tenancy started.

If the furniture your landlord provides is not fire resistant contact Consumerline on 0845 600 62 62.