Mr Fire Safety Ltd
Is my rental property fire-safe?
The owner of a House in Multiple Occupation (a block of flats) in Milton Keynes has recently been ordered to pay a total of £27,500 including Fire Authority costs, for serious breaches of fire safety regulations. The offences brought under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 were prosecuted by the local fire authority, and heard in the Magistrates Court.
Buckinghamshire & Milton Keynes Fire Authority brought the charges following an inspection of the premises by officers on 19 September 2014. The inspection identified significant and serious contraventions of fire safety regulations.
The court heard that the contraventions were so serious that inspecting officers implemented immediate fire safety measures to avoid serving a prohibition notice restricting the use of the premises (and potentially putting tenants out onto the street).
The contraventions included:
- No fire risk assessment.
- Failure to take adequate general fire precautions.
- Inadequate protection for fire escape routes.
- No emergency lighting.
- An inadequate fire warning system.
- No firefighting equipment.
Magistrates heard that the defendants had let parts of the premises for sleeping guests despite failing to provide adequate fire safety precautions, and that this failure placed people at risk of death or serious injury from fire.
Station Commander Ian Wilson, head of fire safety enforcement in Milton Keynes, said: “This case shows that people who have responsibilities to meet fire safety obligations may face severe penalties, including imprisonment, if they place people at risk of death or serious injury”.
It’s not unusual for “rogue” landlords to flout the law. But we should remember that most landlords are not rogues. Indeed, in my experience of dealing with fire safety in similar properties, most landlords are decent people who do their best to provide a safe and secure environment for their tenants. But, many don’t know about their responsibilities, or simply don’t understand them.
The first step is to arrange a fire risk assessment by someone with suitable knowledge, skills and experience in fire safety. The assessment should detail the hazards present, existing precautions and general arrangements. It should then outline exactly what additional measures will be needed to make you compliant with the Regulations. A detailed action plan should guide you through any necessary improvements.
Even relatively small blocks of flats will require a fire warning system, possibly with fire detection in common areas, fire resisting doors into individual flats, emergency lighting in stairwells, signs and notices and firefighting equipment. The extent of the precautions needed depends to a large extent on the size of the building, particularly how many floors there are. Your assessor should use the current guidance to make recommendations to you. They will be able to explain what you need and more importantly, why you need it; after all, anything you must do costs money – your money!
Of course, you could do the fire risk assessment yourself, using any one of the many “templates” available on the internet. But just ticking boxes might not be enough for you to prove that your assessment in “suitable and sufficient”. You will probably end up wasting your time, risking enforcement action and subsequent damage to your reputation, and having to spend money on a professional fire risk assessment anyway.
At Mr Fire Safety Ltd we specialise in helping business to stay safe and legally compliant. Call 01743 510236, email: email@example.com, or contact us through our website, www.mrfiresafety.uk for a chat about your requirements.
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Keeping your business interests safe from fire.