Commercial Landlord Fire Risk Assessment Requirements

New fire safety guidance, effective October 1, 2023, impacts local governments and housing providers.

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As a commercial landlord, you have a number of responsibilities stipulated by legislation and also the lease agreement between you and your tenants. Generally, as a landlord, you are responsible for the general upkeep and maintenance of the building and its structure.

Under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 (RRO) that’s in effect, duties lie with the responsible person (RP) in control of the premises. If the property acts as a workplace, the responsible person will be the employer. However, if the lease outlines that the landlord is responsible for the common spaces of the building (think stairways and common systems like the fire alarm), then the landlord is also a responsible person and so the health and safety duties overlap.

If both commercial landlords and tenants have co-existing responsibilities, then make the lease as clear as possible and aim to work together with your tenants. Each tenant should carry out their own Fire Risk Assessment for their respective areas, if they have 5 or more employees regardless of where they work the significant findings must be documented. If the significant findings are not documented the responsible person from each tenanted area should have discussions with the landlord to ensure that their fire safety arrangements do not conflict.

The responsible person must carry out a risk assessment of the property. Prospective tenants expect to see a copy of the risk assessment before signing the lease, so you should carry out an initial risk assessment on the entire property. Once the commercial tenant has moved in, however, they will usually have to undertake regular risk assessments themselves. The only exception to this is if the lease stipulates that the fire safety of communal areas are the responsibility of the landlord; in this case, you would need to review your own risk assessment regularly and make the tenants aware that you will need access to all parts of the building. It’s also important to note that if your tenant moves out, the responsibilities fall back on you entirely. Therefore, you must make sure you’re fire safety compliant and that your tenants are doing their duties too.

Under the RRO, one of the vital and legally required elements of the fire safety strategy is a fire risk assessment. The Order doesn’t specify how often a risk assessment has to be carried out, but it must be regularly reviewed. The assessment should also be immediately reviewed if:

  • There are staff members who are disabled or under the age of 18
  • There has been a fire incident, even if it was minor
  • The structure of the building has been altered
  • New equipment or machinery is being put in place

Generally, you should be looking to review the fire risk assessment whenever there are changes made to the building or work environment.

Business premises in the UK are also legally required to have a fire detection system in place, which should be set up by the landlord. Depending on the size of the building, sprinklers may also be necessary. Details of where fire extinguishers, fire doors and exit signs should be fitted will be covered in the fire risk assessment.