January 21, 2010barriehol
A news item that by chance landed on my desk set the old blood boiling again. Now anyone reading this blog will be familiar with Fire Risk Assessments, the central plank of the new Fire Safety Legislation – i.e. the LAW.
I have repeatedly warned that the Fire Inspection Officers are on the hunt for Businesses that fail to complete and act on a Risk Assessment, for which the business must foot the bill. Some pretty heavy fines have been imposed on the non believers.
The Legislation has been in force since 2005 and a period of grace was purportedly allowed for Businesses to catch up with compliance which includes private landlords particularly of multi-occupancy dwellings – or Flats to you and me. It seems there is one law for business and one for ….. er……well ……. the lawmakers or at least the public sector.
It is not so long ago that I reported a private landlord had been ordered to pay over £20,000 in fines and costs after pleading guilty to breaches of Fire Safety Legislation.
Then I read last week that leaseholders who had purchased property in Tower blocks operated by Southwark Council were being asked to pay for “crucial fire safety works” identified from a “recent” Fire Risk Assessment. Council tenants living in the same blocks on the other hand are to pay nothing. And it is not a small sum either at an average of £10k per property.
Apart from the obvious and unfair discrimination the question I have is that as the Council has had as much time as any business to conduct a Fire Risk Assessment, had the buildings previously been cleared as safe under the new or even the old legislation? If they had been cleared as safe how come it is going to cost £4million to bring them into compliance? If not why has it taken over 4 years to conduct a Fire Risk Assessment? No business would get away with this.
You may recall the fire last year at Lakanal House tower block in nearby Camberwell that claimed six lives. The official report on this tragedy is still awaited but it seems obvious to conclude the building was a fire risk. If this proves to be the case, will the Landlord aka the Council be fined for non compliance under the RRO? I doubt it.
The unfortunate leaseholders in Southwark are opposing the charge for fire safety improvements and I wish them luck but I also wonder if Councils have the same obligation as mere mortals to provide HIP’s for the properties they sell? The owners could have a case for misrepresentation as they were clearly not told at the point of purchase that the fire safety provisions were inadequate and they were buying a potential fire trap.
For more information on Fire Risk Assessments visit our Advice pages. If you need some help in completing a Risk Assessment take a look at our self help tutorials and manuals. We can also arrange a professional Fire Risk Assessment and Action Report.