The Meaning of “responsible person”: definition in law states:

Under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 (FSO) it places a duty on the responsible person to take general fire precautions and maintain the safety of the people in a HMO property. The ‘Responsible person’ means “the person who has control of the premises in connection with the carrying on of a trade, business or other undertaking”. This could mean both the Landlord or the managing agent, would be the ‘responsible person’

The Housing Act 2004 places responsibility for licensing a property on anyone who meets the statutory definition of person having control or person managing. So, even if an agent’s terms and conditions state that they do not take on the responsibility for licensing and the landlord agrees to obtain the necessary licence, they do still hold responsibility under the statute.

A recent successful prosecution in the London Borough of Camden concerned an agent who had received the initial month’s rent and was holding the tenancy deposit in accordance with an insurance-based tenancy deposit scheme. District Judge Newton, accepted the argument that the receipt of the first month’s rent was enough to make the agent a person managing for the whole of the fixed term of the tenancy.

Is a ‘let only’ agent responsible for HMO licensing?

Under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005, the responsible person must assess the risks—identify the hazards and the people who are placed at risk by them—and remove or reduce the hazard and risks so far as they reasonably can and then put in place fire precautions to protect people from the risks that remain.

An assessment of the HMO would need meet the criteria laid down within the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005, BS9999:2008 Code of Practice: Fire safety in the design, management and use of buildings and Building Regulations Part B – Fire Safety.

The person carrying out an assessment must be competent to do so. A competent person is to be regarded as a person with sufficient training, experience and knowledge of fire safety to enable them to carry out a Fire Risk Assessment properly, to avoid a fatal injury or death.  Competency would need to be proved to a judge.