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What the Grenfell Tower disaster has taught us…

What the Grenfell Tower disaster has taught us…

Landlords obligations towards fire safety

On 14 June 2017 the UK saw one of its worst tower block fires break out at Grenfell Tower, West London. Killing around 80 people and leaving many others missing and unaccounted for it has sparked a public inquiry into the fire and the Metropolitan Police are considering prosecuting individuals for manslaughter and breaches of fire safety charges.

In order to prevent similar tragedies from happening again the disaster prompts an urgent need for Landlords to review the adequacy of their fire safety procedures.

What duties do Landlords owe towards fire safety?

Under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 a Landlord has a legal obligation as a 'responsible person' to take general fire precautions to ensure that the premises are safe.

This duty is owed to anyone in the immediate vicinity of the premises who is at a risk from a fire.

In taking general fire precautions, Landlords are legally obliged to undertake a fire safety risk assessment of the premises. This is vital in order for Landlords to identify fire risks and how to implement fire precaution measures.

As Landlords are required to make a 'suitable and sufficient' assessment for the purposes of taking general fire precautions it is recommended that a fire safety risk assessment should be carried out by an expert with the necessary expertise and Landlords are advised to obtain regular updates from such appointed expert and carry out audits of fire risk assessments.

Penalty for non-compliance

Observance of Fire Safety provisions is serious requirement which all Landlords must comply with. Not only could is non-compliance is a criminal offence resulting in a fine or imprisonment but failure to follow precautions could result potentially in the loss of lives if a serious fire was to break out.

Additional duties

In addition to undertaking a fire safety risk assessment the following duties are imposed by Landlords in such circumstances:

Buy to let Residential Landlords:

  • Have a duty to ensure that a working smoking alarm is fitted on each storey of the premises. A carbon monoxide must also be install in any room which contains a solid fuel burning appliance.

Commercial Landlords who are running a business from the premises - Landlords must:

  • Record fire safety arrangements if there are more than five employees.
  • Eliminate or reduce the risks from dangerous substances.
  • Ensure that the premises are equipped with appropriate fire fighting equipment, fire detectors and alarms.
  • Ensure that emergency routes and exits are kept clear at all times and that emergency doors can be open.
  • Have evacuation procedures including fire safety drills.
  • Ensure that additional emergency procedures are in place for dangerous substances.
  • Fire equipment must be kept in efficient working order and in good repair.
  • Appoint and train one or more competent persons to be fire officers.
  • Provide information to employees on the risks which were identified in the fire risk assessment, the preventative and
  • protective measures, the fire procedures and the identity of the competent persons.
  • Ensure all employees are provided with adequate safety training.

In light of recent events and the on-going inquiry into Grenfell Tower it is likely that fire safety law will develop. Landlords should be mindful of any changes in the law and should review their fire safety risks accordingly or risk being potentially prosecuted and imprisoned.

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