Health and Safety
Health and safety plays an important part in self-catering accommodation and it’s vital your property complies with all rules and regulations to ensure your guests’ stays are as safe and accident-free as possible. Your insurance policy may only be valid if your property complies with all safety legislation.
In this section you will find details on regulations covering fire safety, gas appliances and swimming pools plus advice on how to make your property safer for guests.
In many countries (with the exception of the UK – see below), there is no specific legislation regarding fire safety, but you should carry out a basic assessment of your property to remove or reduce fire hazards. Recommended actions include:
Identify elements of risk such as naked flames, inflammable materials (e.g. heating fuel) and appliances that could over-heat (e.g. tumble driers). Take steps to reduce these risks.
Limit smoking in the property – many homeowners opt for a total ban, reducing the risk of fire significantly.
Install smoke alarms. In a small property, alarms in the hall and landing may be sufficient. If the home is larger consider putting smoke detectors in the living room and all bedrooms. There should be a heat alarm in the kitchen. Check alarms regularly and replace batteries if necessary.
Provide fire extinguishers, one per floor (near the stairs if double-storey) and a fire blanket in the kitchen. Make sure instructions on use are clearly visible and easy to follow. Most DIY stores stock fire extinguishers, which are usually guaranteed for five years.
Check doors and replace non-wood or woodchip with solid timber. Advise guests to close doors at night.
Devise an emergency fire action plan for guests. Include routes for escape, how to raise the alarm and contact the Fire and Rescue Service. Display the plan in the entrance or include it in the guest welcome pack.
Should the alarms be mains or battery powered?
The law does not stipulate which type of alarm should be used or the location they should be sited (this falls under the remit of the fire safety risk assessment). It is recommended that landlords use the most suitable type of alarm for their property and situation. The London Fire Brigade offer some good tips for choosing and fitting alarms, for example, consider alarms with a long battery life and fit more of them should your property accommodate people with mobility issues (the quicker the alarm is raised, the more time they have to leave the property).
Smoke alarms provide crucial early warning of a fire and save lives. Regardless of the law, make sure your guests are protected and your holiday home is appropriately fitted with smoke and Carbon Monoxide detectors.
For more detailed information on these regulations, please refer to the Department of Communities and Local Government guide where you will find lots of useful information.
Fire safety requirements in the UK
England and Wales – self-catering property owners must carry out a fire safety risk assessment. You can do this yourself or use the services of a professional (contact your local Fire and Rescue Service or insurance company for recommendations). The assessment must identify fire hazards and reduce or remove these risks. A record must be kept of actions taken and the assessment regularly reviewed. Download the government booklet ‘Do you have paying guests?’ for useful information and a checklist.
Northern Ireland – requirements for holiday lets are similar to those in England and Wales. Read Fire Safe for exact requirements and advice on carrying out a fire safety risk assessment.
Scotland – Scottish regulations are very similar to those in England and Wales.
In England and Wales properties that are let for at least 20 weeks a year are required to have an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC). The certificate is issued by a Domestic Energy Assessor who visits your property and assesses its energy efficiency.
The EPC includes an energy rating – A (most efficient) to G (least efficient) – and a report on the assessment plus recommendations on how to improve the property’s energy efficiency. An EPC costs between £50 and £75, and is valid for ten years. There are fines for non-compliance and you should make sure the EPC is available in the property for tenants to consult if they wish.
In Northern Ireland EPC regulations are very similar to those in England and Wales. Read exact requirements.
In Scotland EPC regulations are similar but an EPC must be obtained for all rental properties and the certificate must be affixed to the building (e.g. displayed next to the gas or electricity meter or boiler).
Every year carbon monoxide poisoning from badly-installed or poorly-maintained gas appliances and flues causes fatalities. And lack of safety in gas appliances ranks as one of the most frequent guest complaints in self-catering accommodation. Legislation is strictly enforced in most countries and gas supply and installation are highly regulated, although the onus is firmly on you to meet requirements. In general terms, only registered technicians are permitted to install gas appliances and homeowners must ensure regular safety checks are carried out.
France and Italy – legislation requirements vary depending on the appliance and its location, and in France, installation may require a certificate (Certificat de Conformité). You need to ensure regular safety checks are made on appliances and keep a record of these.
Portugal – gas appliances must be inspected by an approved technician on an annual basis.
Spain – all gas appliances require inspection every five years (although most mains gas suppliers carry out annual checks) and the rubber tubes on bottled gas appliances must be replaced before their expiry date (printed on the tube).
UK – safety checks must be carried out annually by a British Gas or CORGI registered fitter. Homeowners are required to keep a written record of inspections and display a copy of the record in the premises. Download ‘Gas Appliances. Get Them Checked. Keep Them Safe’ from the Health and Safety Executive.
Although swimming pools add plenty of rental appeal they can constitute a hazard especially for children. The only country in the EU with legislation on private lets with pools is France (see below), although it’s expected that other EU countries will follow suit in the near future. In any case, if you have a pool that will be used by children you may wish to consider installing the following safety measures:
Perimeter fence – this should be high enough to prevent a child climbing over and include a self-closing and -locking gate.
Pool alarm – the alarm should be loud enough to be heard from anywhere in the property and be tested regularly.
Pool products – most are poisonous and should be kept in a secure, locked store cupboard or shed.
Adult supervision – regardless of safety measures, a responsible adult should always be present when children are in or near the pool.
France – under the Raffarin Law (Loi Raffarin), all private lets with pools must comply with one of the following safety measures:
- The pool must be fenced securely to a minimum height of 1.10m with a secure gate
- An alarm must be placed somewhere on the pool perimeter or in the water and tested monthly
- The pool must be covered and the cover in place when the pool is not in use. If you have a pool your insurance company may ask for evidence that the pool
complies with safety measures.