Open Plan in Rented Properties
Open Plan homes are very popular with tenants. A typical tenant is a hard working professional, aged between 25 and 40, who wants to maximise their space. They rent because it provides them with the flexibility and mobility they value.
If you’re planning to rent your property you’ll need to comply with the building regulations as well as all laws applicable to landlords, which include the RRFSO (Regulatory Reform Fire Safety Order), the Housing Act and LACoRS guidance. LACoRS is aimed at landlords and fire safety officers and offers practical advice on fire risk assessment with case studies and suggested fire safety solutions.
LACoRS allows most types of open plan layouts permitted by building regulations above, except where a house has been divided into bedsits. The regulations apply even if you aren’t changing the layout, and you must comply with the law whether your property is an HMO (house in multiple occupation) or not and regardless of whether your local authority wants to inspect or licence it.
The LACoRS Guide isn’t very different to the building regulations and it isn’t law, but it is regarded as legislation and, unlike building regulations, applies retrospectively to all properties. Properties that don’t meet the requirements can only remain in use where it is ‘not reasonably practical’ for a landlord to remedy the problem.
Both the RRFSO (Regulatory Reform Fire Safety Order) and the Housing Act are there to ensure that rented properties have adequate fire safety and escape routes. The RRFSO puts the responsibility of fire safety for people onto the owner/occupier/employer and/or landlord. They are described as the ‘Responsible Person’.
The ‘Responsible Person’ is to carry out Fire Risk Assessments and implement appropriate fire protection measures like installing fire doors, fitting specialist alarms, smoke detectors and, in some cases, installing fire suppression systems.
It’s important to clear your proposed open plan layout with building control before you begin building. In England and Wales you have the right to choose between local authority building control, and private sector approved inspectors. Approved inspectors tend to offer some value-added services and may be able to approve a wider range of layouts through their fire engineering expertise.
For more typical projects, an architect or loft conversion specialist might be the best place to start and when it comes to fire suppression systems, a specialist installer, like an Accredited Automist Installer should be able to help you explore the types of layout that are usually approved.
Open Plan living can make a huge difference to a property and can be relatively straightforward to achieve with the right guidance. For any sort of unusual layout, or if your property has four or more storeys, we recommend discussing your plans with your local building control team as early as possible.
So whether you’re a homeowner looking to refurbish your home, a landlord looking to rent out a property, an architect planning to enable open plan split level living for clients, or a designer creating a beautiful loft conversion, Automist is a cost-effective sprinkler alternative that provides full room active fire protection and makes it easier to comply with building regulations, without sacrificing design.