8 January 2021

Landlord insurance: Fire safety and your HMO let

By Will Riley Senior Account Handler
Fire Safety - article

Let’s face it – landlords, and especially those with a HMO let (house of multiple occupation), can have a bad reputation thanks to the minority of rogue landlords who provide substandard living conditions, fail to get the right licenses and run off with tenants’ deposits.

The media love a bad landlord story, but where most landlords do the right thing they’re unfortunately overshadowed by the bad ones.

When it comes to your HMO, safety should always be a priority, because at the end of the day if something goes wrong, you as the landlord may be liable for substantial sums in compensation to an injured tenant, as well as the potential costs of relocating them if your property burns down.

But why is fire safety in HMOs even more important than other let properties?

  1. Rooms are often locked in HMOs and of course this means that it can be more difficult to get out of the property easily if the worst happens.
  2. More people means more comings and goings, more varied hobbies and possessions, and more potential sources of risk.
  3. Tenants in an HMO don’t always know each other that well, they may not even talk to each other that much. This means that with the increased risks mentioned above, plus a lack of communication between each other, there can be a higher fire risk.

If you needed any reminder of how dangerous this can be, why not look at the case of Mr Bhagwent Sagoo from Luton. His HMO let suffered a fire in March 2019 resulting in the death of one of his tenants. The property did not have any fire doors, and the fire alarms were not interlinked as they needed to be. Mr Sagoo was imprisoned for four months and a fine of over £10,000 was imposed. As you can see, punishments can be severe, befitting the seriousness of the impact that fires can have.

If you do have an HMO let, it is important that you know the regulations that apply and that you get your property in shape to comply with these.

But what does this mean in practice?

  • Fire doors

These are key as they can contain a fire in one room, or stop it spreading to others, giving more time to rescue anyone trapped inside. All bedrooms should have fire doors, and these are often fitted in the kitchen and living room too.

  • Fire alarms

These are another essential element to consider in your HMO let. You should ensure that you have fire alarms on each floor of the property, and they should be interconnected so that if one goes off, they all go off. Rules vary depending on the size of the property, and they can often vary between local authority areas. If you are buying an HMO or renovating a property to be used as an HMO, it is vital that you check the requirements that will apply to your property.

  • Thumb locks

These are not always compulsory but worth looking at in any case. Health and safety regulations state that tenants should always have a clear exit route. Thumb locks give the property this escape route. If there is a fire, then the situation would be made much deadlier if your tenants can’t get through a door if it is locked and they don’t have the key on them.

  • Fire windows

If there is a fire and windows are part of the escape route, it is vital that the windows can open wide enough to allow someone to escape.

Where to find out the local rules for your HMO let

When you are buying or renovating a HMO, a good place to start would be your local planning officer. They will be able to guide you on the rules in your area, and they will have a lot of experience of all the dos and don’ts for HMO landlords.

For a full list of the rules that apply, you can visit the Government website for more information:



Is HMO insurance different to landlord insurance?

Of course, another thing to think about when managing the risk on your investment is landlord insurance. Many insurers would treat your HMO let differently from a single family let as they can present more risks. Often it will be part of your landlord insurance policy that you have to comply with the HMO regulations, such as those for fire, or on cooking areas. Some insurers will also limit cover such as accidental damage or theft by your tenants, as there are so many of them and they will often be changing. Because of these reasons it’s important to check your landlord insurance policy carefully so that you are aware of any limitations that apply and any extra endorsements that you need to comply with.

That’s where we at Protect My Let come in. We have a variety of options for HMO lets, even those where you may offer shorter terms rentals. We can guide you through the insurance process and let you know what you might have to look out for. As ever, feel free to call us on 01206 655 899 and we would be happy to go through these options with you.

Friends laughing and talking

Do you need HMO insurance for landlords?

Make sure you have the right insurance cover for houses of multiple occupation with Protect My Let. You can find out further information on our HMO page.