The government has launched an emergency safety inspection of about 4,000 tower blocks in the UK, following the appalling tragedy of the Grenfell Tower fire in London. Dozens of people are believed to have died when the blaze ripped through the tower block and many more families have lost their homes. Although the Chancellor Philip Hammond claims that the cladding used on the exterior of the building has been banned in the UK and other countries, because it is not fire resistant, it also seems that no fire safety inspections have been carried out on the building since 2015. Residents have also complained about the lack of smoke alarms and exposed gas pipes.

Whilst it is laudable that action will now be taken to prevent a further tragedy like this, it is shocking that a building was allowed to pose such a high risk to tenants in the first place. According to media reports, tower block safety checks have been cut by 25% since the Conservatives came to power in 2010, according to official figures. Reputable landlords will always ensure that they meet, or even exceed, fire and safety regulations, which is why it is so important for local authorities to weed out poor landlords who are putting their tenants at risk.

The Fire Service has issued requirements about smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors for different rental properties. A flat or house of single family occupancy should preferably have an interconnected system of smoke alarms throughout the property and CO alarms in all high-risk rooms. A house of multiple occupancy of one or two storeys needs mains-powered interconnected smoke alarms throughout and CO alarms in high-risk rooms, while HMOs of three storeys or more need a fire alarm system with a central panel and CO alarms in high-risk rooms. The landlord must also check that tenants have access to escape routes at all times and ensure furniture and furnishings are fire safe. Fire alarms and extinguishers must also be provided if the property is a large HMO.

Landlords also need to make sure that gas and electrical equipment are also safe, which helps to reduce the risk of fire. All gas equipment has to be installed and maintained by a Gas Safe engineer. Annual gas safety checks need to be carried out on every appliance and flue. The electrical system, such as sockets and light fittings, must be safe, along with all appliances supplied, like cookers or washing machines.

Landlords will, therefore, need to make sure they have a record of when each of these checks were last made and when they next need to be carried out. Software and apps are available which can alert landlords to let them know that a check is coming up. This gives ample time to make the necessary arrangements for the specialists to carry out the inspections. These specialist software systems and apps also mean that landlords have a clear record that they can use in evidence in case there is any dispute.

 

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