On 1st October 2023, the government will be issuing new regulations for fire safety in holiday homes in England. The purpose of these changes are to ensure that all holiday lets are acting safely and making provision for fire safety, making it as safe as possible for guests during their stay.
This is an important change in our industry, so we want to make sure you’re aware and understand these changes, as well as knowing your obligations and responsibilities as a self-catering owner.
We’re currently working alongside the Professional Association of Self-Caterers (PASC) and other self-catering groups and agencies to make sense of the changes and what will be required. At present, the rules have been published and where there is room for interpretation, we’d advise using an independent Fire Risk expert to assess the risk at your property.
We’ll always endeavor to give you as much support and information as we possibly can, however with these changes we’re not in a position to offer advice and deem it highly likely that you’ll require a professional fire risk assessor to assist.
With the new changes coming in, we would strongly advise that your Fire Risk Assessment is carried out by a professional, rather than carrying it out yourself. The upcoming change is complex and often difficult to understand, so using a professional will ensure that the government guidelines are adhered to where required, ensuring neither you nor the guests are at risk.
Your Fire Risk Assessment should be revisited regularly and updated where necessary, particularly where any changes have been made to a property.
There are a number of organisations which govern professionals in the fire safety industry, who have registries of companies who may be able to assist with your Fire Risk Assessments and any works required.
The Devon & Somerset Fire Dept also provide a good information resource here – https://www.dsfire.gov.uk/safety/businesses/self-catering-holiday-lets
Whilst the process may incur some costs to ensure your property is compliant, it’s likely you may be able to offset some of these costs against your tax bill. We’d recommend speaking to an accountant or tax specialist to find out.
Firstly, there is a new distinction made in the guidance between small self-catering, open plan, and large self-catering premises, so it’s important that you know which you fall into.
Our understanding is that there are sets of rules around what is required based on the size and characteristics of your property.
If you have a property which has less than 4 bedrooms or sleeps less than 10 guests, here’s the guidance you need to be working towards:
Here’s a definition of what constitutes this…
‘A single premises of ground floor, or ground and first floor, providing sleeping accommodation for a maximum of 10 persons, with no more than four bedrooms on the first floor…’
‘Individual flats (whether within a purpose-built block of flats or a house that has been converted into flats), other than unusually large flats.’
Below we’ve summarized many key points from the new government guidelines, however they’re not exhaustive and again, we really recommend that you seek guidance.
You’ll already be familiar with carrying out a Fire Risk Assessment (FRA) prior to holiday letting your property. This is already a legal requirement carried out and should be recorded for your property. A copy of the Fire Risk Assessment should also be displayed in your property, ideally in your Cottage Information Folder. With changes coming, we strongly recommend that this is carried out by a professional FRA company who will be fully up to date with the rules and can offer guidance based on their experience of any risks. For large properties or those with various features such as age of building, access considerations and so on, it’s advisable to use a FRA expert, who’ll thoroughly evaluate the level of risk.
If a fire knocks out the normal inside lighting, you should think about whether any ‘borrowed lighting’, for example from nearby street lamps is enough to allow people within the premises to find their way out. If not, it may be acceptable in small premises to rely on rechargeable torches that come on automatically if the main supply fails. If required, you should have one in each room with a sign that says what they have been provided for.
Larger premises will need more sophisticated automatic emergency lighting systems.
Doors on the escape routes must have 30 minute fire protection capability or an adaptation which offers the same level of protection.
Linked hard-wired smoke detectors are now required in all bedrooms and living rooms as well as protected escape routes, including hallways, corridors, staircases, living rooms and dining rooms leading to the main fire exit. Larger properties or those with complex layouts may need more sophisticated detection systems.
The recommendation for any fire detection and alarm check is six monthly, this is for complex systems only such as ones with a fire panel. In addition, your housekeeper must do a weekly or on every changeover check and keep a log of this.
Heating and Hot Water systems must be inspected annually, including systems powered by renewable energy such as air/ground source heat pumps.
Providing locks which do not require a key from the inside on exit doors. Therefore, thumb turn locks are now strongly recommended on all exit doors – There would be very few instances where it would be deemed unnecessary to fit these.
The EICR (fixed wiring check) is required every 5 years, and this now also applies to many small Unique hideaways/glamping properties.
Chimney flues should be swept annually.
Firefighting equipment needs to be provided – Fire extinguishers (at least one on each floor of the property) and a fire blanket in the kitchen are essential. The equipment is to be checked annually by a competent contractor. Please note that multi-purpose powder extinguishers should not be provided, as they are not suitable for use in enclosed spaces.
Weekly checks must be carried out to ensure the equipment is in good working order.
Candles should be prohibited, and a clear policy is required for your guests.
For larger and/or more complex properties, the document Fire Safety Risk Assessment: Sleeping Accommodation still applies and it is likely to be reviewed in 2024.
PASC will be releasing more information on what’s happening next over coming weeks and we’ll make sure we’re there to provide you with updates as and when we see them.
We’re working with PASC and across the industry to get as much information and guidance made as clear as possible for you.
If you have any questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to ask.
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