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I am a live-in landlord (UK), with two lodgers. My bedroom is on the ground floor, my lodger is in the bedroom above me. I want to reduce the noise from above, and this video suggests that folded towels make great sound-insulation.

I want to put some folded towels under the floorboards in my lodgers' room for this reason. However, most towels are 100% cotton and so burn quite well. Would I get into trouble for doing something like this?

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You would almost certainly be criminally liable if a fire were to occur and your insulation did not meet the Fire Safety Building Regulations, especially as you deliberately used a non-conforming material.

Cotton towels are not one of the materials that have met or exceeded the EU and UK regulations.

Edit to add - as an aside, should you suffer a fire for whatever reason, any landlord, housing or home insurance you have have will almost certainly become void should the insurance company discover your use of cotton towels as insulation.

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – feetwet Jun 1 at 16:09
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Let me preface this by saying I'm not a housing lawyer, but have done work on landlord tenant housing issues, particularly disrepair, so I believe I may weigh in here.

Anyway, generally speaking, you will be liable for any damage caused to the property of the lodgers, or to any injury and/or loss suffered by the lodgers as the direct result of the towels accelerating or exacerbating a fire that you caused.

What is important to note, is that you would be at fault here if a fire damages the tenants/their property only if:

  1. The fire is negligently started by you (in this case, the existence of the towels would not matter)

  2. A fire, that is not your fault - which would otherwise not have damaged the tenant's property or injured the tenants - ends up doing damage/harm to the tenants because of your towels.

What point 2 is saying is: even if the towels catch on fire and does damage, it would not necessarily be your fault, but the fault of the person who started the fire. The only time you would be in trouble for the damage caused by someone else's fire is if you towels are shown to be the reason why the fire spread to the tenants' rooms. This is awfully hypothetical, because generally, towels or not, a fire will spread.

I am unaware of any byelaws or statutes which forbid a person from insulating their house with whatever material they want.

From my research the regulations on insulation exist for builders of a house (See the Building Regulations 2010) - they can't just insulate a house with whatever they want. But you as landlord should not be limited by this, in my opinion. It is possible that your local council may have regulations to this effect, so it may be prudent to check in with them.

Towels are not inherently dangerous so unless you are stuffing your entire house with highly flammable towels I think you are relatively safe from a negligence claim.

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    Common sense is that if one answer says "You will pay dearly for it", and another answer says "No problem", then you either pay an expert who is legally responsibile for damage caused by giving wrong advise, or you act according to the first answer. – gnasher729 Jun 1 at 12:50
  • Well the most prudent response to any legal question would be to seek legal advice. But that doesn't mean advice amounting to "there's no problem here" is wrong. I think your comment doesn't add any value to the answer or point out why it is wrong (if at all). I'd be happy to change my answer if anyone can show me a statute which requires landowners to maintain their premises with an approved list of insulators, but I am not aware of any – Shazamo Morebucks Jun 1 at 18:21
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I don't think there is a specific case about towels in the floor you can compare it to, and there are no specific mentions of towels in the floor in the law obviously, so if you were sued it would be up to the jury to decide if that was reasonable or not.

The only real authority to talk to would be your local fire department. Even that does not stop someone from suing you though.

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    There are specific standards in section B2 of the law which linings must meet. Towels will not comply. – David Siegel May 31 at 1:56
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    No offense to you, but there is just no way that is true. Movie theater's concert venues etc place materials in the ceilings to damper noise. You reading of it would make them all illegal. – Putvi May 31 at 15:57
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    Did you read section B2 of the law linked in the other answer? Have you read any modern building code or fire code? Standards for materials used are routine and do not include a list of specific forbidden materials. Yes materials are placed to damp noise. But they must comply with the standards, or else the operators are in violation, and may face penalties if caught. Some operators do violate standards. – David Siegel May 31 at 16:04
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    No of course not on the gun powder. If you read my answer I didn't say anything not mentioned is ok. You are trying to make it sound as if you can drag what I said out to say anything not in a law is ok. – Putvi May 31 at 16:07
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    Yes, I read section B2 and have read other building codes. I'm not from the UK, but while working for a sheriff's dept in IL, I have witnessed fire inspections when IL state level fire officials needed to be let into a building or escorted. Everywhere has there own standards, but I have literally witnessed IL fire inspectors be ok with placing towels in places to dampen noise. I'll admit they didn't pull up floors to stick them in, but here anyway, they focus on the insulation and flooring. – Putvi May 31 at 16:11

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