THE Government’s review into building and fire safety regulations is missing the opportunity to assess fire safety regulations across all types of housing.
This is the concern being expressed by the Residential Landlords Association (RLA) as it formally responds to the Interim Report of the review led by Dame Judith Hackitt following the Grenfell Tower tragedy.
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The RLA is calling for contradictory and outdated fire safety guidance across all housing to be updated to make it clearer for landlords to ensure their properties are safe and improve enforcement and risk assessments by the authorities. Doing so would also help to ensure that bad landlords cannot seek to exploit potential loopholes caused by overlapping regulations.
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 to shared spaces such as living rooms, kitchens and hallways. The regulatory standard for private rented housing, the Housing Health and Safety Rating System, applies to the whole of a building. Each of these is enforced by a different body. Whilst the interim report refers to this, there is no implication that it accepts it as a key flaw in the current regime which needs to be addressed.
The RLA is calling also 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, Policy Consultant to the RLA said:
“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.
“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.”