Fire safety and smoke alarms

This page explains what you can do to minimise the risk of fire in your home.

It looks at your landlord's responsibilities and what you can do if you think your home isn't safe.

If you live in a house in multiple occupation (HMO), your landlord has to make sure there are adequate fire precautions and escape routes.

Keeping your home fire safe

Book a free home fire safety visit

You can request a free home fire safety visit from your local Fire and Rescue Service. You will be advised on home fire precautions to take and where appropriate the Fire and Rescue Service will fit, free of charge, a smoke alarm to your home.

To book a home fire safety visit call 0800 0731 999 or visit Fire Scotland to book online.

Fire alarm installation

Make sure your home is fitted with at least one fire alarm. They can be bought at any DIY or electrical shop for as little as £5. Most Fire and Rescue Services will provide and fit smoke detectors for free in domestic homes.

Make sure smoke alarms meet British Standards EN14604:2005.

Make sure heat alarms meet British Standards 5446-2:2003.

Test the batteries regularly to check they're still working.

The law around fire alarms is changing

By February 2022 every home must have:

  • one smoke alarm in the living room or the room you use most

  • one smoke alarm in every hallway or landing

  • one heat alarm in the kitchen

All smoke and heat alarms should be mounted on the ceiling and be interlinked. Interlinked means if one goes off, they all go off.

If you have a carbon-fuelled appliance, like a boiler or fire in any room, you must also have a carbon monoxide detector in that room. It does not need to be linked to the fire alarms.

It’s the property owner’s responsibility to install these.

Gov.scot has more information on the new fire alarm regulations.

Minimise the risks of electrical fires

There are several things you can do to help prevent electrical fires, including:

  • unplugging appliances that aren't in use

  • never overloading adaptors with too many plugs

  • getting electrical appliances tested by an approved contractor.

The page on electrical safety has more advice on this.

Fire safety precautions

  • Keep heaters at a safe distance from flammable materials and always unplug electrical heaters when not in use

  • Never smoke in bed

  • Never cover heaters, for example by draping washing over them

  • Never leave burning candles unattended

  • Never leave matches where children may find them

  • Never empty a hot ashtray into the bin - wet the contents first or wait until it's completely cold

Plan a fire escape route

Plan what you would do if there were a fire in your home and always keep the escape routes clear. Make sure everyone in your home is familiar with the escape plan.

If the main exit from your home locks with a key, make sure the key is always easily accessible and everyone in your household knows where it's kept.

Your local Fire and Rescue Service will help you produce a fire plan for your home.

More guidance on fire safety

The Scottish Government has information on Fire safety in the home.

The Don't Give Fire A Home website has advice on minimising the risks of fire. It includes information on how to choose and use smoke alarms, fire extinguishers and fire blankets.


Landlord duties for fire safety

By law, your landlord has a responsibility for providing fire detection equipment that meets the 'repairing standard':

  • at least one smoke alarm installed in the room most frequently used 

  • at least one smoke alarm in every circulation space, such as hallways and landings

  • at least one heat alarm installed in every kitchen

  • all alarms should be ceiling mounted

  • mains or lithium battery powered

  • and all alarms should be interlinked

Your landlord also has a general duty to keep your home fit for you to live in and to ensure that it doesn't endanger your health. This includes ensuring there are no fire hazards in your home, such as loose wiring or dangerous stairs.

The Scottish Government has fire safety requirements for privately rented properties.

Fire safety and furnishings

Any upholstered furnishings provided by your landlord should be fire-resistant. This applies to all landlords, including private landlords, HMO landlords and social landlords.

There should be a symbol on your furniture to state that it is fire resistant - you can find out more and see examples of the labels.

If the furnishings in your home do not appear to be fire-resistant, get in touch with your local trading standards office, to take action against your landlord.


Fire safety in HMOs

You may be protected by fire safety laws if you live in an HMO. An HMO could be:

  • a house split into separate bedsits

  • a house or flatshare, where people have separate tenancy agreements

  • a hostel

  • a bed and breakfast or hotel which is not just for holidays

Fire precautions in HMOs

HMO landlords have to ensure there are adequate fire precautions (including alarms, extinguishers and fire blankets) and fire escape routes. These must be well maintained and adequate for the number of residents and the size of the property.

What your landlord must provide

HMOs should be fitted with fire warning systems such as fire alarms and heat or smoke detectors. These should be placed throughout the building but particularly in escape routes and areas of high risk, such as kitchens. The fire warning system should be serviced and checked regularly.

Fire equipment such as extinguishers and fire blankets should be provided. There should be at least one fire extinguisher on each floor and a fire blanket in every shared kitchen.

These have to be checked periodically and the correct sort of extinguisher must be provided. It's up to you to make sure you know how to use the fire blanket and fire extinguisher in an emergency.

Fire escapes in HMOs

HMOs should have an escape route that can resist fire, smoke and fumes long enough for everyone to leave (usually at least 30 minutes). This could be an external fire escape, or internal stairs, corridors or walkways that are specially constructed or treated to resist fire.

All the walls, ceilings, floors and partitions along the escape route must be fire-resistant. All the doors leading to the escape route must be fire resistant and must close automatically.


If your landlord does not comply with fire safety standards

If fire hazards in your home are endangering your health and your landlord is refusing to put things right, you may be able to get help from the council's environmental health department.

Getting help from the environmental health department

The council's environmental health department has to inspect and take action to sort out disrepair that is causing a statutory 'nuisance'. This is something that:

  • affects your health

  • causes a problem for the public

  • disturbs people in any neighbouring property

  • makes your home unfit for you to live in

Fire safety statutory nuisances include:

  • dangerous electrical wiring

  • dangerous staircases

  • piles of rubbish obstructing the means of escape

If the environmental health department decides that the fire hazards could affect your health, it can issue your landlord with an 'abatement notice' ordering them to put the problem right.

The section on repairs in private rented housing has further information on getting help from the environmental health department and what you can do if the council won't help you.

If you're a social tenant

The council can't issue itself with an abatement notice. If you're a council tenant and you're concerned about fire safety, you may be able to apply to the sheriff court for an abatement order instead.


If you're injured or your property is destroyed by fire

If you are injured in a fire or your property is damaged, you may have a right to take legal action against your landlord, or anyone directly responsible for negligent work. You must start the action within three years of being injured.

Get advice from an adviser at Citizens Advice or a solicitor at a law centre or independent firm if you're considering this course of action.

Last updated: 23 April 2019

Housing laws differ between Scotland and England.

This content applies to Scotland only.

Get advice if you're in England