Fire Safety – how are we doing?

Fire Safety has been in the news a lot in the last couple of years. There have been many serious fires in the UK, including Lakanal House and Grenfell Towers. More recently, there has been a high profile fire at Notre Dame.

Fire Safety is a continuous issue that makes the news in lesser ways, but still with potentially life-changing outcomes, or deaths. Below are a couple of examples of the failings (that we get to hear about).

Inadequate fire safety results in £53,000 fine for the landlord

After pleading guilty to 18 offences relating to two houses of multiple occupation (HMOs), Lettings of London Ltd has been ordered to pay over £53,000 after pleading guilty to 18 offences relating to two houses of multiple occupation (HMOs). The letting agent, based in North London, was found guilty at Stevenage Magistrates’ Court and will pay fines of £43,000 and £10,000 to Welwyn Hatfield Borough Council.

After an initial inspection of the properties in 2018, several deficiencies were found, including:

  • Fire safety equipment in both houses had not been maintained in good working order
  • There were no working fire alarms or fire blankets in either property
  • The self-closers on fire doors were not working
  • Emergency lighting was not working
  • There were loose coping stones and rusted metal handrails on an external staircase outside one of the properties.

Simone Russell, corporate director at Welwyn Hatfield Borough Council, said:

This is the second case this year with one of the largest fines we have seen for offences relating to HMO properties.

These were serious breaches of the law and could have led to severe injury or worse.

Landlords can join our council-run accreditation scheme, PAL, which makes it easier for landlords to understand meet high standards of management practice.

Failings by Gateshead Metropolitan Borough Council, including lack of Fire Risk Assessments

The Regulator of Social Housing has found that statutory requirements across a range of areas including …

  • fire safety,
  • asbestos, and
  • electrical safety

… have not been met by Gateshead Metropolitan Borough Council (Gateshead MBC).

As a consequence of these issues, the Council has been found in breach of the Home Standard, and a correction programme is currently in place. It was found that, as a consequence of the breach, there was the potential for serious detriment to tenants, caused through management organisation The Gateshead Housing Company.

Under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005, the Council has a statutory duty to regularly assess the risk of fire in properties where it has responsibility for maintenance and to take precautions to prevent the risk of fire.

Up until mid-2018, there was no programme to carry out risk assessments across properties in the area and, although fire risk assessments were carried out on many high-rise properties, they were not carried out in other locations.

Since identifying these issues, Gateshead MBC has been carrying out a programme of fire risk assessments and has developed a plan to undertake the works arising from those assessments prioritised according to risk.

The last paragraph of the Regulatory Notice (April 2019) from the Regulator of Social Housing reads:

“Gateshead MBC has put in place a programme to rectify these failures. The regulator will work with Gateshead MBC as it seeks to address the issues which have led to this situation, and will consider what, if any, further action to take in relation to the breach of the Home standard.”

Good News: at least nobody was hurt or killed

Bad News: There are many more examples known, and to be uncovered, where organisations (and people) are failing to take fire safety seriously.