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Keeping your tenants safe – An overview of fire safety for the PRS

RLA
Written by RLA

The tragedy that struck Grenfell Tower in London on June 14th has left the nation devastated as we watched many lose their lives, loved ones and their homes.

It has not only caused tremendous empathy and grief for the victims but has prompted many of us to pause and reflect on how safe our tenants are. Regardless of tenure we all have a responsibility to try and ensure as far as we can that our tenants lives are not put in danger by preventing the devastating effects of fire.

The RLA Landlord Advice Team has received many calls from members keen to ensure that they are doing all that they can to keep their tenants from preventable harm.

We have prepared a document with some advice and tips to download if you are concerned about fire safety. This document covers what legislation applies to your type of property, what you can do to keep your tenants safe and help with fire risk assessment.

You can read the document in full here

 

As we write this article it is believed that is was a faulty fridge that started the fire at Grenfell Tower. Although this is yet to be confirmed we would still recommend our members take a moment to read the following tips from Charlie Pugsley, head of Fire Investigation for London Fire Brigade:

  • Make sure all appliances are registered with the manufacturers
  • Check your appliances against the recall list
  • Visually check your appliances – you don’t need to be an electrician to see if wires are damaged or a control panel is broken.
  • Tell tenants to flag up any unusual noises or smells and get them checked out.
  • Don’t leave fridges or freezers in communal areas such as hallways

The RLA has a full guides on Electrical Safety and Gas Safety that will help you to keep your tenants safe from potential causes of fire.

The RLA also has a guide on Fire Safety for furniture and furnishings that you might find useful.

There has also been much public concern and comment about potential flaws in the cladding that was on Grenfell Tower. While the exact reasons for the speed of the spread of fire have yet to be determined,  the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) has concluded that there are additional tests that can be undertaken with regard to the cladding. They have asked local authorities and social housing providers to identify whether any panels used in new build or refurbishment of their own housing stock are a particular type of cladding made of Aluminium Composite Material (ACM). These checks are also relevant to privately owned and managed residential buildings too, so we have agreed to ask our members to carry out these important checks too.

You can read the letter from DCLG here

 

If you would like to help those affected by the fire there are a number of ways that you can do this.

Donations

The Red Cross is helping to co-ordinate the efforts to help those directly affected by the Grenfell Tower tragedy.  You can find out how to help, or make a donation to the London Fire Relief Fund here:

Accommodation

There are two strands of accommodation activity that are underway if you are able to help :

  • Finding and placing all the displaced households into temporary accommodation as quickly as possible.
  • Securing new homes for all those households.

If you are willing to donate rental accommodation please come forward to the campaigns team at the RLA (campaigns@rla.org.uk)  and we will put forward your details to the designated bodies helping with the cause. The council is particularly keen, but not exclusively so, to find properties in the Borough. Low rise is preferred to high rise.

In the longer-term there is a need to acquire property for long-term rental close to Grenfell Tower.

Going Forward

Given the almost unprecedented events at Grenfell Tower it is inevitable that Fire Safety regulations regardless of whether applicable to private rented or social housing will be brought under scrutiny . The RLA has written to the Fire Services Minister Nick Hurd to request a meeting .

We are supporting moves towards a full review of fire safety in residential accommodation across all tenures with the primary aim of increasing clarity and modernising existing provisions.

In relation to blocks of flats, of the type that Grenfall Tower was, we believe a clear national agreement needs to be reached across England and the devolved administrations to ensure better enforcement and implementation of the responsibilities of councils and fire services to implement fire safety standards in communal areas in blocks of flats. Whilst private sector landlords are responsible for fire safety up to the front door of their individual flat, the RLA is concerned that insufficient attention is being provided to who should be responsible for the communal areas.  This results in there being too many inconsistencies in approaches across the country.

The RLA has already attended a summit held by the Mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham on fire safety in high rise buildings. We will continue to work closely with the Task Force going forward to ensure that private landlords can also help shape any response to this tragedy in the Greater Manchester Region.  You can read more about the recommendations that came out of that summit here.

We realise that this tragedy will no doubt be in the thoughts of many Landlords and we hope that this offers some reassurance and answers any questions that you might have. However, we also realise that this is an area that is likely to undergo review and it is a highly complex area to follow. If you have any questions at all please do contact the RLA Landlord Advice Team or the Policy and Campaigns team who will be happy to help.

For more information:

About the author

RLA

RLA

The Residential Landlords Association (RLA) represents the interests of landlords in the private rented sector (PRS) across England and Wales. With over 23,000 subscribing members, and an additional 16,000 registered guests who engage regularly with the association, we are the leading voice of private landlords. Combined, they manage almost half a million properties.

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