Residents let down by ‘confused responsibilities’ on fire safety

The Residential Landlords Association is calling for a new system as residents left confused.

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The Residential Landlords Association (RLA) want government to improve systems that point out an individual with responsibility for fire safety. 

Residents 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 measures, they said.

At present responsibilities for various aspects of fire safety are shared between the owners 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 concern comes as part of the RLA submission to the Government’s building regulation review, led by Dame Judith Hackitt, following the tragic events at Grenfell Tower.

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 measures.

Such individuals, the RLA argues, should be supported by the creation of a new fire safety compliance code to make sure others involved with 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 the fire service.

Overall, 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In its submission the RLA warns that contradictory and outdated fire safety guidance needs updating to better support good landlords.

At present, 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

RLA Policy Consultant, Richard Jones, said: “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.

“This needs to change to give residents piece of mind and ensure much better lines of accountability on such serious issues.”

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