Tenants living in high-rise blocks of flats are being let down by a system in which it is hard to hold to account a single person or organisation for fire safety responsibilities.
At present, fire safety responsibilities are shared between the owner of a block, the fire services, the local authority and the owner of individual flats. Such a situation risks important fire safety improvements not being taken, as a result of confusion about responsibilities for carrying them out.
The Residential Landlords Association (RLA) is raising these concerns, as it publishes its submission to the Government’s building regulation review, led by Dame Judith Hackitt, following the tragic Grenfell Tower fire earlier this year.
The RLA is calling for a new system that means, for every residential building, there is a single identifiable person who should be responsible for assessing and overseeing fire safety responsibilities.
Such individuals, the RLA argues, should be supported by the creation of a new fire safety compliance code, to ensure that others involved in the building, such as occupiers, play their part. This should be backed up by ensuring that there is one enforcement body on fire safety measures – a responsibility that is currently split between local councils and fire services.
Overall, the RLA believes that this system would improve accountability and address the risk that fire safety responsibilities fall through the cracks between different authorities and individuals.
In its submission, the RLA warns that contradictory and outdated fire safety guidance needs updating, to better support good landlords.
Currently, landlords are expected to abide by fire safety guidance, which was issued by LACORS – a body that no longer exists – fire safety regulations that date back to 2005 and building regulation guidance issued in 2006. This is in addition to guidance published in 2006, which covers the Housing, Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS), used by councils to assess risks in dwellings.
Confusingly, the existing smoke detector regulations suggest a lower standard for detection and fire alarms for various properties than that which is in fact needed under this guidance.
This is one example of the contradictions under the current regime, the RLA highlights.
Richard Jones, the Policy Consultant at the RLA, comments: “It is vital that the right lessons are learnt to prevent a tragedy such as Grenfell Tower happening again.
“Whilst there are widespread powers and regulations already available to ensure properties are safe, too often they are not being properly applied as a result of confused and sometimes contradictory guidance, and no single person having overall responsibility for fire safety in a residential building.”
He insists: “This needs to change, to give residents peace of mind and ensure much better lines of accountability on such serious issues.”
We have a complete guide to fire safety for landlords, to help you understand your fire safety responsibilities: https://www.justlandlords.co.uk/news/landlords-guide-complete-fire-safety/