Self Closing Fire Doors – Issues in HMO’s

Self Closing Fire Doors – Issues in HMO’s

8:05 AM, 10th February 2013, About 10 years ago 16

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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?


Richard Lord

14:39 PM, 16th March 2013, About 10 years ago

Freda-There is simply no automatic requirement for a fire door to the kitchen in a low risk student shared HMO, if sound well constructed doors were in the frame in the first place. The requirement for a fire door has to be part of an overall fire risk assessment after taking into consideration factors such as -is the house layout traditional with the escape route not passing through a risk area, what was the existing door, ( if glass or hollow core then i agree they have no place as part of kitchen separation) what alarm system is in place, are the tenants strangers, are there any obvious extra risky behaviours ( candles, smoking in the house etc). If the Council cant prove the additional burden of risk and the is no category 1 hazard then I cant really see how they can serve an improvement notice and hope to defend it in the RPT. There is no longer a box to tick that equates kitchen with fire door.

Like always I dont know the house, this is a general comment based on a typical two storey low risk HMO..

I woud suggest that if you have the time and inclination you get a copy of the of the LACORS national fire safety guidance and familiarise yourself so that you are in a postion of strength to argue future requirement for unnecessary improvements.

Freda Blogs

14:46 PM, 16th March 2013, About 10 years ago

Thanks Richard, thats helpful to know. I am about to do a refurb including reconfiguration of the layout and will need to get the Council back in for re- accreditation, so will do as you suggest beforehand.

Mary Latham

20:42 PM, 16th March 2013, About 10 years ago

Under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 Part 2 Article 8 The onus to ensure that the building is safe falls on the “responsible person” – the landlord - as does the requirement responsibility to carry out and record a Fire Risk Assessment under Article 9. In the West Midlands EHOs still want to see self closing 1/3 hour fire doors with intumescent strips even on two story HMO’s shared by young healthy students.I have had fire doors on every room and at the foot of the stairs on my student HMOs since the 80’s and in those days they were very expensive, far more than they cost now. I have never regretted the investment because some tenants are reckless and I want to take every precaution to save them from themselves and each other. I also have interlinked hard wired smoke detectors in every room and hall and landing and an interlinked heat detector in the kitchen. A life is worth more than the money it costs to fit this equipment and over all these years the ongoing cost has been very little. When I did have a fire about 10 years ago not only did everyone get out safely the damage was contained in the living room where the fire started and reduced the down time and insurance claimNew fire doors look much smarter than the original Victorian wooden doors too.Follow me on Twitter@landlordtweets

10:45 AM, 17th March 2013, About 10 years ago

Regarding the problem of fire doors being wedged open.
There are electronic fire door actuators which via magnets can disengage and the door closes.
Obviously there mustn't anything to sop the doors closing.
Hotels use these and they are highly effective.
As soon as the fire alarm goes off all the fire doors close.
I speak from former professional experience that this system works very well and stops smoke logging immediately.
I can't tell you the problems we had with cleaner wedging fire door open and then forgetting to unwedge them when the fire alarm actuated!!
You can also get electronic door stops which bolt to the bottom of the door.
You kick down the rubber bolt into the floor which then retracts when the alarm sound goes off.
Having these systems allow the doors to be held open but can close when the alarm actuates.
Not sure whether these systems are compliant for HMO's but they are far better than leaving the tenants with no alternative than to use wedges to keep the fire door open;......................even if they shouldn't.
Hotels accepted the perennial problem they had and fitted magnetic fire door stays.
They work very well.
Every fire door that is wedged open could attract a fine of £1000!!
I think that is why the hotels introduced them as they could not risk the fines.
We always used to come back with pockets of wedges; but we warned them rather than fine them; even though they could have been prosecuted.
All the Fire Service wants is the relevant protection measures to be used as they do work.
Even a bog standard door that is CLOSED can hold back fire for about 20 mins.
That is why whenever there is a fire it is an ideal practice to CLOSE EVERY door.
It makes evacuation and consequent fire-fighting so much easier; believe me!!

George Mitchell

3:57 AM, 25th July 2013, About 10 years ago

Fire doors have two important functions in a fire; when closed they form a barrier to stop the spread of fire and when opened they provide a means of escape. The fire test should be used with the appropriate mechanical performance test to obtain an overall performance ‘approval’ for the element of hardware. UL’s Notified Body can also assist to achieve a CE mark.


Ganesh Makam

14:45 PM, 5th November 2016, About 6 years ago

Reply to the comment left by " " at "10/02/2013 - 20:54":

Hello Ash, If it is not chain or hydraulic methods of self closing, what other type do you use or recommend?

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