Fire Safety for Landlords
Following the jailing of a landlord because of fire safety breaches, landlords should ensure that they are fully aware of their responsibilities on fire safety
A landlord has been sent to prison in the first custodial sentence to be given in London under new fire safety regulations.
Mehmat Parlak was sentenced to four months imprisonment and his company, Watchacre Properties Ltd, was fined £21,000 after pleading guilty to eight breaches of fire safety.
The prosecution followed a fire at a flat in Tottenham in September 2007 in which a man died.
Councillor Brian Coleman, chairman of the London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority, said: “This fire resulted in a man dying and highlights why landlords and businesses must take their responsibilities under the regulatory reform order seriously. The London Fire Brigade works hard to bring irresponsible companies and individuals to court, which can, as this case has shown, result in a custodial sentence.”
The charges included failures to provide appropriate fire safety arrangements, fire fighting equipment, fire detection measures and clear escape routes. The landlord had also failed to carry out a risk assessment.
Consolidation of legislation
The case highlights a landlord’s responsibilities under the raft of recent legislation such as the Housing Act 2004 and the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety Order) 2005 which applies to Houses of Multiple Occupation (HMOs). The problem for landlords is that these pieces of legislation are often contradictory and complicated.
In essence Fire Safety has moved to a risk based putting the responsibility on landlords to carry out a risk based assessment of their property.
The ( Fire Safety Order ) 2005 has replaced over 100 existing areas of fire safety legislation. The FSO applies to virtually all premises apart from private dwellings and single residential rental properties such as single rental flat or house. It is therefore relevant to landlords with multi-occupied residential rentals such as HMOs, student lets and shared accommodation.
Inevitably when it comes to Government legislation that aimed to simplify matters the new regulation has ended up providing landlords more questions than answers with respect of their responsibilities.
In an attempt to demystify the situation, the local government advisory body LACORS (the Local Authorities Coordinators of Regulatory Services) has produced a set of guidelines that it intends will become a benchmark for both authorities and landlords.
To download a copy of this ‘brief’ 82 page document landlords can go here.
5 KEY PRINCIPLES
The five key principles of housing fire safety set out in the document are:
1. Identify fire hazards
Fuel risks include furniture, furnishings and textiles; laundry; accumulations of waste paper; waste storage and refuse containers; and flammable liquids such as paint and cooking oils.
Ignition risks include smokers’ material; naked flames; cookers, toasters and other kitchen equipment; faulty or poorly installed electrical equipment; and arson
2. Identify people at risk
The risk assessment should consider people at risk including people asleep; guests who are unfamiliar with the premises; people with disabilities; children; people who are under the influence of alcohol, drugs or medication; and anyone who has difficulty understanding English.
3. Evaluate, remove or reduce risk and protect against remaining risk
Ensure electrical sockets are adequate in number and silted appropriately; ensure combustible items such as furniture, laundry and decorations are stored properly and are kept away from potential ignition sources such as cookers and heaters.
4. Record, plan and inform or train
Keep a written record of the fire safety risk assessment which includes the fire hazards that have been identified; the actions taken to remove or reduce the chance of fire; and actions taken to reduce to people from fire and smoke. Ensure the emergency plan is visible.
The risk assessment and the general fire precautions in the premises should be reviewed regularly.
For a comprehensive practical guide on how to carry out a risk assessment on your HMO