This week, Mid and West Wales Fire & Rescue along with Powys County Council Private Sector Housing held discussions on fire safety issues in domestic properties. Due to the importance and relevance of such issues, members of our Lettings Department attended Newtown Fire Station for this briefing to ensure that our staff are fully informed on current regulations. This is vital in ensuring that our Landlords receive professional advice and to provide a duty of care to our tenants.
The fire at Grenfell Tower last year showed the disastrous impact of what could happen when a fire breaks out. Although we locally do not have such high-rise tower tenements, we do manage a range of rental properties from four storey blocks of flats to multi-level flats situated above shops in town centre locations.
At such properties, there is a legal requirement to carry out a fire risk assessment of the communal areas. This duty falls on the ‘responsible person’ which may include the Landlord, or the Managing Agent contracted to carry out such duty on behalf on the Landlord. In such properties, there will be a requirement for adequate fire protection between floors and between flats and the communal areas. There must be un-obstructed and protected escape routes and fire alarms must be able to alert an occupant where a fire has started in another part of the building. The use of such linked fire alarm systems is essential when considering those flats situated above shops that close after normal working hours. For such blocks of flats that we manage, our service may include carrying out weekly fire alarms tests which are logged, and we can also deal with the servicing and maintenance requirements.
So far as self contained domestic rental properties are concerned, the emphasis on fire safety remains the same. The Local Authority employs the Housing Health & Safety Rating System (HHSRH) to assess the risk posed by fire and enforce improvements. Our Lettings Policy ensures that measures are in place to mitigate as far as practicably possible the risk of fire in our rental properties.
Almost half of all domestic fires are caused by electricity and the Landlord is legally responsible for ensuring the electrical safety in the property. To ensure full compliance, we require an Electrical Installation Condition Report (EICR) to be carried out on every rental property which has a 5-year validity. If the Landlord supplies any portable appliance such as a washing machine or fridge, these must be tested on an annual basis. A smoke alarm must also be installed on each floor and these will be tested on the first day of any new tenancy.
The legal and appropriate requirements are there to reduce the risk of fire and to protect the tenants in their home. Our Lettings Policy ensures that our Landlords have fulfilled their legal obligations and have done everything possible in providing a safe home environment.
A special thanks must be given to members of Newtown Fire Station and to Powys County Council Environmental Health team with whom we have forged a close working relationship.
By Andrew Jones MARL A
By Andrew Jones MARL