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Houses in Multiple Occupation fire safety guidance


If a fire breaks out in a House in Multiple Occupation (HMO) and there are no provisions to restrict the spread it can seriously reduce the time occupants will have to escape from the building. The presence of a well designed fire alarm system along with a suitable means of escape route will significantly extend the time available to evacuate the building and reduce the risk of serious harm or even death.

This guide to fire safety is intended to give guidance to owners, landlords, managing agents, tenants and other interested parties on the relevant fire safety requirements that Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council, in partnership with Cleveland Fire Brigade feel would be necessary in certain Houses in Multiple Occupation and self-contained flats. By following this guide it will ensure that occupiers will be housed in safe, good quality accommodation.

The approach in this guidance document is intended to provide early warning of a fire to all occupiers of a building and to ensure that they can escape safely from that building to a place of ultimate safety.

To achieve this the fire safety requirements comprises the following:

  1. protected escape route
  2. automatic fire detection and alarms (smoke/heat detectors and alarms) to give early warning to occupiers
  3. emergency lighting (in larger properties) to aid escape from a building
  4. fire-fighting equipment
  5. fire safety signs
  6. surface finishes and floor coverings
  7. management and maintenance of fire safety systems
  8. adequate and approved storage and household waste disposal processes for all households

Properties that have any of the following may require work to reduce the fire risk and to improve fire safety:

  • No fire detection or alarm systems
  • Doors, walls and ceilings in certain locations that are not fire resistant
  • Flammable floor and wall coverings
  • Complex escape routes
  • Long distances of travel to a place of safety
  • Stored or discarded items on the escape route
  • No emergency (or borrowed) lighting to the escape route
  • Inadequate storage and household waste disposal processes for all households

In addition the layout within the accommodation must be satisfactory. A poor layout can present a fire risk to the occupant before he/she is able to reach the protected escape route. Sleeping areas or rooms should be closer to the exit door for the accommodation than living areas or kitchen facilities.