The Government’s current fire safety review is missing the opportunity to assess fire safety regulations across all types of housing, warns the Residential Landlords Association (RLA).
The organisation has formally responded to the interim report of the fire safety review led by Dame Judith Hackitt, following last year’s Grenfell Tower disaster.
In its response, the RLA warns: “We are concerned about the interim report’s focus on new build and high-rise residential buildings, largely to the exclusion of the existing stock of smaller residential accommodation.”
The RLA is calling for contradictory and outdated fire safety guidance across all housing to be updated to make it clearer for landlords to ensure that their properties are safe, and improve enforcement and risk assessments by the authorities. Doing so would also help to ensure that rogue landlords cannot seek to exploit potential loopholes caused by overlapping regulations, the body points out.
Of particular concern are the confused and split responsibilities of the fire services and local authorities in relation to bedsit accommodation and blocks of flats. At present, the Fire Safety Order is limited in its scope of shared spaces, such as living rooms, kitchens and hallways. The regulatory standard for private rental housing – the Housing Health and Safety Rating System – applies to the whole of a building. A different body enforces each of these. Whilst the interim report refers to this, this is no implication that it accepts it as a key flaw in the current regime that needs to be addressed.
The RLA is also calling for a clear agreement about the responsibilities of councils and fire services for fire safety standards in communal areas in blocks of flats to address the current inconsistency of approach from local authorities across the country.
Richard Jones, the Policy Consultant to the RLA, says: “Grenfell Tower was a tragedy that must never be repeated. It is vital that the Government’s review looks at fire and building safety issues in the round, and not just tower blocks.
“Ever growing volumes of complex and sometimes difficult to understand guidance causes confusion among tenants, landlords, local authorities and the fire services.”
He insists: “We need much clearer guidance, in line with current standards, to develop a strengthened risk assessment regime, with much more transparent lines of accountability about who is responsible for enforcing what. Standards for high-rise blocks clearly need to be revisited and changed.
“We owe it to the memory of all those who lost their lives, and their loved ones, to get this right once and for all.”
We have a comprehensive and complete guide to fire safety to help you, as a landlord, understand and comply with current fire safety regulations: https://landlordnews.co.uk/guides/a-landlords-guide-to-fire-safety/