One Year On From Grenfell – What’s Been Learned for landlords?
The horror stories from the dreadful Grenfell Tower disaster in 2017 have been well documented. The awful scenes we all witnessed on the news will remain with us for a long time. The UK came to a standstill recently when it observed a minutes silence to mark the year anniversary. It won’t bring anyone back, but it certainly showed how much the victims and their families remain in the nation’s thoughts.
Out of a tragedy like this, there are always lessons to be learnt. Seeing Grenfell burning will have led a lot of landlords to ask questions like:
‘Could the same happen to any of my properties?’
‘Have I done enough to protect my tenants?’
‘Am I fully up-to-date with current fire safety legislation?’
There’s no room for complacency when it comes to health and safety and, with fire safety rightfully back at the forefront of everyone’s minds, it’s time to re-evaluate your position and make sure you’re doing everything possible to protect your assets and, most importantly, your tenants.
Are Your Properties Well Maintained?
The most sensible place to start is by looking at how well maintained the properties within your portfolio are.
It’s easy to see if there’s a hole in the wall or a broken piece of guttering but when was the last time the smoke alarms were checked? Have you instructed an electrical expert to PAT test any of the appliances recently? How about the fabric of the building – for example the ceilings as in Grenfell’s case – is that in good condition?
Sometimes landlords are great at having these sorts of issues checked prior to a new tenant taking over a property. With people having a tougher time getting on to the property ladder though, there are more and more long-term tenants. If you have trouble-free tenants who never complain, do you fall into the trap of assuming all is well?
Here Are Some More Ways You Can Protect Your Tenants…
There are plenty of things you can do to make sure the environment is as safe as possible for your tenants. Keeping escape routes clear, making sure there are no fire hazards near where fires could start, checking appliances have been PAT tested frequently and ensuring the property has smoke alarms and correct fire extinguishers are all things you could do.
An important one to consider is helping your tenants to understand these things too; you can’t be there all the time to make sure the property remains safe, after all.
Firms such as The Parr Group can provide landlords with a one-stop-shop for all things related to fire protection and safety. They supply fire extinguishers, fire alarm systems, maintenance services and fire safety training to help landlords remain fully compliant with the law and HSE regulations.
Getting help to ensure compliance is particularly important for more complex properties; for example if you own a block of flats or houses of multiple occupation (HMOs).
If you’re the owner of a block of flats, you need to factor in that it’s your responsibility to maintain the communal areas in addition to the internal space of each flat. If you use a managing agent, they will probably have the remit to take care of this, however as the property owner you’ll still need a good understanding of what they’re doing.
HMOs have enhanced fire safety rules and regulations, especially if they require a license. In addition to some of the pointers mentioned above, for HMOs you’ll also need to make sure all exits are clear, that all necessary equipment such as fire extinguishers and fire alarms are installed properly and in perfect working order, clearly mark out all fire exits and detail tenant instructions, have annual gas safety checks and also make sure all electrics are checked every 5 years.
Hands Up Who Knows What HHSRS Stands For?
There’s a considerable amount of literature detailing all the different fire safety regulations for rented properties. The RLA (Residential Landlords Association) website has some excellent advice and information about the different regulations and what they all mean, including ’The Housing Health And Safety Rating System (HHSRS)’, ‘The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005’, ‘The Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarm (England) Regulations 2015’ and ‘Building Regulations 2010 Part B’, along with many others.
In addition to how much legislation exists around the subject of fire safety, it’s further complicated by the fact that there are different standards to upkeep in the different countries within the UK. For example, ‘The Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarm Regulations 2015’ has different compliance standards in England compared to Scotland.
There’s so much for landlords to consider and following on from Grenfell it’s important that we keep striving for improved fire safety standards. If you keep up-to-date with legislation and get the right support from fire safety experts, we’re confident you and your tenants will sleep well at night.