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If you're worried your home isn't fire safe

This advice applies to Scotland

If you own your home and are worried about fire safety

New build homes and fire safety

New build homes in Scotland are required to meet strict building regulations.  Most are covered by a warranty scheme for a number of years after the build (usually 10 years). You should have been given details of this cover when you moved in and it may be stated in your title deeds. Check what your policy covers. 

At the start of the warranty (usually for the first couple of years) it is the responsibility of the builder or developer to fix any defects in your home. They should have provided you with details of how to report defects and repairs. If you are concerned about the fire safety in your home, contact the builder or developer in writing and ask them to arrange a fire safety survey of the interior and exterior of your home and to repair any defects you or the survey have identified. 

If the builder refuses to make these repairs, contact your warranty provider. Many have a resolution service and may pay to have the work done if the builder refuses. 

If the resolution service does not help, you may be able to use the Consumer Code for Home Builders to resolve problems. More information is available at www.consumercodeforhomebuilders.com. A dispute resolution scheme is incorporated in the code. 

For the rest of the warranty period, you may be able to make a claim on your policy. Contact your policy provider for information on what is covered by your policy and how to make a claim. 

The Scottish Fire and Rescue Service also provides free home fire safety visits. For more information see www.firescotland.gov.uk. There is more information about fire safety in the home at www.gov.uk

Make sure you have contents insurance

Older homes and fire safety 

For buildings which are no longer covered by a warranty, you should organise a free home fire safety visit with the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service. For more information see www.firescotland.gov.uk.

You may be able to make an insurance claim through your buildings insurance or contents insurance to make your home fire safe, such as repairs to the property or to faulty appliances which would increase the risk of fire. Your insurer may also pay for changes to the property which would reduce the risk of damage in the future. See Making a claim on your insurance policy

Repairs to common parts

Common parts of the building may need to be repaired or improved to be fire safe. For example, check that fire doors in the stairwells are working properly. For more information see firedoorsafetyweek.co.uk

The term common repair is used to describe any repair to the parts of a property for which there is a shared responsibility amongst owners and for which everyone must pay, like stairwells. Your responsibility is usually set out in the title deeds to the property. If there is nothing in the title deeds then legislation called the Tenements (Scotland) Act 2004 has a set of statutory rules that can be used to settle any arguments about who is responsible for which part of the building. The law in the Tenements (Scotland) Act 2004 applies to any shared property not just tenements.

This can be a very complex area of law. Owners may have difficulties organising common repairs and agreeing how to deal with the problems they may share. A leaflet called 'Common Repair, Common Sense' is available on the Scottish Government's website at www.gov.scot.

The website Under One Roof provides technical information on the architectural aspects of different building styles, and the repairs commonly needed to these areas. The website can be accessed at www.underoneroof.scot.

You may need extra help from a solicitor or depending on what repairs need to be done, an architect or surveyor. Any professionals that provide help will require to be paid. In some areas there may be a property factor to help you. See Using a solicitor and Property factors providing services to homeowners.

If you rent your home and are worried about fire safety

Address fire safety inside the home

Disrepair can increase your chances of a fire, for example if wiring or appliances are faulty. Every landlord in Scotland must carry out an electrical safety inspection and provide their tenant(s) with a report. For more information, see scotland.shelter.org.uk

Your landlord's other responsibilities for making your home fire safe, and your options if they don't, depend on what type of tenancy you have. There is a useful tenancy checker on the Shelter Scotland website at scotland.shelter.org.uk.

Private tenancies and fire safety

A private landlord must provide and maintain smoke detectors, carbon monoxide detectors and alarms, and keep electrical appliances in good working order. This is called the repairing standard. 

You should ask your landlord (or letting agent) to make any repairs that are needed. It is best to do this in writing, by letter or email. See Getting repairs done while renting for how to negotiate with a landlord and your options if they refuse to do the repairs. 

An adviser at your local Citizens Advice Bureau can help you decide whether to take action if you landlord refuses to do the repairs. 

If you live in a furnished property, all furnishings should be fire resistant. Upholstered furniture usually has a label stating this. 

Public sector tenants and fire safety

Most public sector or council tenants are Scottish secure tenants. As a Scottish secure tenant you are entitled to have your accommodation kept in a reasonable state of repair. 

Small repairs that affect your health, safety or security should be done quickly. This is called the Right to Repair. This includes unsafe power or lighting sockets or electrical fittings. For more information see Getting repairs done while renting

Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMO) and fire safety

A house in multiple occupation (HMO) is accommodation shared by 3 or more unrelated people, and it usually has to be your main home. Many students live in HMO properties. A landlord must have a licence from their local authority to rent out a house in multiple occupation (HMO).

HMOs must meet fire safety standards. Visit the Shelter Scotland website at scotland.shelter.org.uk for more information about fire safety in HMOs and what to do if these standards are not met. 

If you think your building is unsafe

Ask your landlord to organise a fire safety test if you’re worried about how safe the building itself is, for example the outer cladding. The presence of cladding doesn't necessarily mean your home is not safe to live in. If they’ve done a fire safety test recently, ask for a copy.

If you’re a council tenant, your landlord will be the local authority. Check their website first - some councils have information about their fire safety plans on the homepage.

It’s best to ask in writing and keep a copy. Send your landlord a letter or email and include:

  • why you think your home is unsafe
  • your name and address
  • the date
  • a deadline for them to reply
  • any specific repairs that need doing - for example if a fire door doesn’t shut properly or appliances are broken or faulty.

Your local Citizens Advice Bureau can help you to write this letter. 

If your private landlord or housing association won’t do a fire safety test 

If you are a private tenant or housing association tenant, contact the environmental health department at your local council. Explain that you’re concerned about fire safety, and that your landlord has refused to arrange a test. You should also let the department know:

  • what you’re worried about
  • how old you and any other tenants are
  • if you or any other tenants have a serious illness or disability

For more information on getting help from the environmental health department, see scotland.shelter.org.uk.

If the council think you need an inspection, they’ll send an inspector to check for safety hazards. If the inspection finds anything dangerous, the council can force your landlord to make your home safe. If the inspection finds serious safety hazards, you might need to move out until your home is safe

If the environmental health department refuses to do an inspection, it’s a good idea to talk to your local MSP - they might be able to contact the council for you or take the issue up in the Scottish Parliament if other people are in the same position. You could use your council's complaints procedure. This should be available on their website. If you are not happy with the result of this, you can complain to the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman

The Scottish Fire and Rescue Service also provides free home fire safety visits. If your landlord won't do a test, you could organise one yourself. For more information see www.firescotland.gov.uk. Ask the fire brigade for a list of repairs that are needed and send a copy of this to your landlord. 

If you're a council tenant and the council takes too long or won't do an inspection

If you're a council tenant and the council (your landlord) is refusing to do an inspection, it’s a good idea to talk to your local MSP - they might be able to contact the council for you or take the issue up in the Scottish Parliament if other people are in the same position.

You could use your council's complaints procedure. This should be available on their website. If you are not happy with the result of this, you can complain to the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman

The Scottish Fire and Rescue Service also provides free home fire safety visits. If your landlord won't do a test, you could organise one yourself. For more information see www.firescotland.gov.uk. Ask the fire brigade for a list of repairs that are needed and send a copy of this to your landlord.

If you have to move out of your home because it isn't fire safe

If an inspection finds that your home is not safe for you to live in, you may have to move out permanently or until the home is made safe. You should get advice about your rights from a specialist housing adviser at your local Citizens Advice Bureau

You may be able to make a homelessness application to the local council, and the council may have a duty to provide you with temporary accommodation while they assess your application. 

Staying safe in the event of a fire

The Scottish Fire and Rescue Service have produced information on what to do in the event of a fire. For what to do in an emergency see www.firescotland.gov.uk.

For emergency information tailored to multi-storey (high-rise) flats, see www.firescotland.gov.uk. It's important to know the fire plan for you building and the location of all fire exits. 

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