I feel simultaneously compelled to write this article and nervous that it will be read as an attempt at ‘ambulance chasing’. But I cannot be a specialist in fire safety law and not write something after the events of the last week. So I want to write that we are here at Penningtons Manches to support you – and if you have any queries, please get in touch. Let's use the events of the last week to educate ourselves, to review our policies and see that we prevent any similar events.
A brief reminder:
- As a landlord – you are the Responsible Person for all the common parts within blocks of flats/communal dwellings – meaning you have to carry out a fire risk assessment of those parts – including the structure of the building itself, stairwells/lift shafts, roofs, basements/foundations, communal areas and foyers.
- That includes the physical safety of the common parts to ensure a fire does not start there (ie removing combustible material from stairwells) and also considering how everyone will evacuate the building through those common parts.
- You are not responsible for risk-assessing the individual dwellings – but clearly how the dwellings are used will affect the likely risks to the block overall.
- Remember, the assessment should be carried out by a competent person. Don’t be embarrassed if you’re not – not everyone will have this specialist knowledge or training. Ask yourself, do you properly understand the risks posed by the building itself, and those living there? If in doubt, get specialist advice.
- Are the fire service aware of your assessment? Have you warned them of any particular needs (eg disabled residents) or hazards (eg asbestos)?
- Are the residents aware of the findings of your assessment, and (a) how they should behave in their flats generally, and (b) what they should do in the event of fire?
We know that we are supposed to review assessments regularly – now is that time. If your assessment is dependent on the fire service being present within 30 minutes of a call, is that still possible? Are any systems on which you’re relying (smoke alarms, etc) functional? Has the character of the block changed, such that there is a greater risk of a fire occurring, or (for example) disabled residents now present?