In the wake of the Grenfell Tower tragedy, fire safety has naturally moved up the list of concerns for landlords. It’s a stark reminder of the legal responsibilities landlords have to their tenants, whether it’s a commercial or residential property. Looking beyond the immediate concern to make sure your occupants are safe, we look at how the disaster may affect your landlord insurance. And we explain how to get peace of mind that your tenants, building, and investment are protected.
Fire safety responsibilities for landlords
As a landlord you are responsible for ensuring your property, including the building materials used, meet specific regulations. The Grenfell disaster has highlighted the use of some cladding materials as a potential cause of the rapid spread of the devastating fire. As a landlord, you’ll need to identify if your building(s) has the same or similar cladding to that used at Grenfell. You also need to make sure that any appliances or furniture meet safety regulations too. And you need to double check that safety equipment is working and fire routes are clear.
Landlord statutory duties
Statutory duties are imposed on landlords under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 and the Health & Safety at Work Act 1972, amongst others. As an overall guide, the key statutory duties for landlords are to:
- Undertake a detailed fire risk assessment, identifying any possible dangers, and keep it under constant review
- Ensure the review specifically considers anyone at increased risk, such as older people, children or anyone with a physical impairment
- Do everything practically possible to reduce or eliminate the risks from fire
- Introduce fire precautions counteract any risks that cannot be eliminated
- Have an emergency evacuation plan
Fire safety obligations for residential properties
- Install smoke alarms on every storey of a property
- Install a carbon monoxide alarm in any room with a solid fuel burning appliance
- Ensure that tenants have access to escape routes at all times
For more information on rules and regulations, read this guide from the Residential Landlords Association.
What about if I employ a property manager?
You’ll need to double check your contract. Remember, even if your property manager makes all the arrangements for things like repairs and safety testing, the ultimate responsibility still rests with you, the landlord. That means you’ll need to satisfy yourself that all repairs, maintenance, and other regulatory requirements are being met properly even if you pay a manager to handle this for you.
What is Aluminium Composite Material (ACM)?
Aluminium Composite Material (ACM) is the type of cladding currently under scrutiny for its potential role in the rapid spread of the fire at Grenfell Tower. It’s a type of flat panel that consists of two thin aluminium sheets bonded to a non-aluminium core.
How can I tell if the cladding on my building is ACM?
You can tell the difference between ACM and a solid aluminium sheet by looking at a cut edge. If it’s ACM, the lamination will be clear. You may need to cut a hole in a panel to see this.
What to do if you’re worried about the cladding on your building
First of all, don’t panic. If you’re concerned that the cladding on your building is made of ACM, then a sample can be tested. In July, the government released explanatory notes on testing to help building owners make decisions about any further action they may need to take to make buildings safe.
Landlord insurance – do you need it?
The main reason for taking out landlord insurance is to protect you financially from any unforeseen incident. The most basic building insurance will cover your premises in the event of a fire or other event damaging or destroying the property. There are also other elements of landlord or buy to let insurance that can help give you peace of mind:
- Landlord’s content insurance. If you are offering a fully furnished house or flat for rent then you need to protect your furniture and other items from damage that may occur by accident or as a result of your tenants’ actions.
- Legal protection. This will protect you in the event that legal proceedings are brought against you by a tenant.
- Loss of rent insurance. If your property is damaged or becomes unliveable for a period of time then you stand to lose a considerable amount of rental income. Landlord insurance can cover you for these periods so that you’re not out of pocket.
Remember, standard home insurance will not cover any property that you are renting out. If you don’t have specialist landlord insurance policy, it is likely that your insurance will be automatically voided in the event of a claim.
Will insurers refuse to cover high-rise blocks following the Grenfell fire?
Underwriters carefully balance risk when calculating insurance. It’s possible that some insurance companies may decide not to take on the risks of insuring certain high-rise blocks in the future or the costs of premiums may be prohibitive.
Steps to make insurance cover more affordable for building owners
Installing sprinkler systems can make a property safer, reducing the chances of a fire’s spread and reducing the value of any likely claim. This reduces the risk faced by your insurer. If your property has an effective, working sprinkler system installed, it could help you to buy insurance cover at a better price.
Landlord insurance experts
For more information or a free quote, get in touch with our specialist property owners insurance team at Park Insurance or call 0117 955 6835. We’re an independent broker with over 30 years experience helping landlords. We’ll help you to secure the right insurance at the best price for total peace of mind.