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Self Closing Fire Doors – Issues in HMO’s


HMOLandlady - Published on 10/02/2013
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Self Closing Fire Doors - Issues in HMO'sAs all good HMO Landlords know, it is compulsory to have self closing fire doors.

Now, I’m not disparaging of their purpose in an HMO – protection for the rest of the house should a tenant start a bonfire in their room and, if the fire starts in the communal areas, protection for the tenant whilst he sleeps like a baby through the fire/smoke alarms. What really gets me and the tenants is the self closers.

These are mandatory to pass your licence and I’ve experienced both chain and hydraulic types and, if pressed, would have to choose the chain variety.

Chain based self closing fire doors

Chain based self closing fire doors

Hydraulic Self Closing Fire Doors

Hydraulic Self Closing Fire Doors

If you’re a tenant and have run out of wardrobe space, where do you hang your coat?  On the self closing arm of course!

The hanger then gets caught in the arm and, hey presto, the door stops self closing.

To me they also seem more powerful: my Granny is in a dementia home and they have fire doors on all the bedrooms (fair enough, the residents are far too frail to jump out of the window in the event of a fire and aren’t allowed to escape from the building anyway), but she really does struggle to open her door and needs a carer to hold it open for her whilst she walks gingerly into the hall – try doing THAT whilst pushing a walking frame!

Anyway, self closing fire doors also come with other shortcomings:  new tenants into an HMO will on average forget to grab their keys before the self closers kick in. It can takes them two or three times of being shut out before they learn!

The call comes in from another tenant’s mobile and I try to get there as quickly as possible only to find the tenant in his/her dressing gown clutching a toilet roll and sporting a sheepish or annoyed look.  Sometimes, they don’t bother with the dressing gown and are huddled in a foetal position on the top stair looking very sorry for themselves.

I’m researching various solutions to this as it makes it very difficult for me to go away.

Tenants tend to wait until I’m on a train, plane, car heading OUT of the area to let me know they’re locked out or manage to do it late at night on the weekend when I’m otherwise engaged at the pub.  One idea has been to install a security key safe for each room which individual codes, so the tenant can access their spare key without having to call me.  This is possible and I have one outside my front door which is useful on the occasions when myself or my children have accidentally left our keys somewhere.

Here’s another solution : train the tenants to put the thumb turns (Yale locks) on the latch when they go for a pee!

Do you have any others ideas?

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Comments

  • Simon says:

    Don’t use Yale latches on doors in HMO’s is the sImple solution. Fire doors in care homes is a totally different issue – not sure of the answer – maybe a magnetically operated hold open device?


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  • Can’t you get thumb-turn locks that need to be locked with a key from the outside (like the cylinder locks for uPVC doors)?


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  • Ash Zuberi says:

    We use special security locks which essentialy are thumb locks, we never use chain based or Hydraulic systems. Their is a better option which has not been mentioned. In 5 years operation we have never had a tenant lock themselves out of their room or their house. In fact we had one tenant who could not figure out the one key system and called us up stating we had forgot to issue him his room key and he could not lock his room. Once we had informed him to go home and try the door key we never heard from him again….


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  • I have also posted this article to your HMO Facebook Page Ash, which by the way is also an excellent resource for HMO Landlords which I would stronly recommend them to “Like”. Thanks for commenting on both threads. Link to Ash’s Facebook page here >>> http://www.facebook.com/groups/housesofmultipleoccupancy/553989364620552/


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  • I also use thumb turn locks which can be opened on the inside without a key, do not lock until you operate the thumb turn or with a key from the outside. The first benefit I found is that they cannot lock themselves out of the room nor do they forget their keys because they need them to lock the door on the way out. They come in both mortice and “yale” style locks. This has saved me many journeys to let them in.
    I use the chain style closers called Perko and I have had them in my properties since the 80′s. I have only had to replace 4 in all those years with 4/5 in each of several HMO properties.
    I use thumb turn locks on all my doors including the final exit doors back and front and this means that if there were a fire and they had to get out in a rush they would not be searching for a key. They are quite expensive you they are often on an offer at some suppliers – worth Googling.
    Follow me on Twitter @landlordtweets


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  • Mark Member Profile Deleted says:

    Here in Oxford the licensing authority no longer require self-closers on room doors although they still do on kitchen and or living room doors that isolate stairwells from high risk fire areas.
    It transpires that the main driver for this shift in policy was to do with the level of complaints received by the noise team from neighbours who were disturbed by slamming doors at all hours of the day and night! Moral of the tale……….reducing complaints supersedes safety of tenants?


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  • Thanks for all the advice, everyone. I’ll look into the thumb turns which mean you have to lock them from the outside. It’s a constant learning curve…….!


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  • Svetlana and I stayed in one of our flats this weekend. It was only then I realised these are the locks my brother has fitted to all of our flats.


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  • I feel the need to add to the debate from the position of requiring 30 minutes self closing fire doors in the first place as they are not a requirement in all HMO bedrooms. The Housing Act 2004 does not require fire doors in all HMO’s – the requirement to provide a protected route is on a risk based approach. It may be worth reading the national safety guidance carefully to establish whether you really need fire resisting doors with self closers in the first place. Not knowing whether the HMO is a three storey bedsit type or a two storey shared house type licensed HMO as part of an additional scheme it is hard to make a specific comment. For example the following general comments are lifted out of the fire safety guidance.- In existing 3 storey shared houses of low risk it may be possible to accept existing walls and partitions if 20 minutes fire resistance can be achieved. -If the management is good, the tenants present an average or lower risk and the house is of a conventional layout you may not need a 30 minute protected route. You may need to challenge your LA’s standards to ask them to justify why they are requiring self closing 30 minutesfire doors


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  • I was required by the Local Authority to install a self closing fire door to the kitchen of my 2 storey 4 bed student house – at some considerable expense. I knew it would never be left closed (and I think the Council rep secretly agreed), and so it has proved. It is always left wedged open….no amount of telling, wedge removal or notices put up seem to work.


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