The government review into fire safety and building regulations has been criticised for missing the chance to look into regulations in all types of accommodation. The Residential Landlords Association, which represents landlords, has raised concerns that the review could have been much broader. It raises its concerns in its response to the interim report into the building regulations and fire safety review.
The report does show the need for new regulation and enforcement for high-rise buildings, a clear line of duty to ensure safety, and a new approach to how risk assessments are carried out for high-rise residential buildings. It also calls for an accreditation system to be set up for those concerned with designing, building, inspecting and maintaining complex buildings. However, it is argued that this does not go far enough and the spectrum could be much broader.
The RLA has raised concerns about the particular focus on new-builds and high-rise residential blocks. It feels that the existing housing stock of smaller residential buildings has been largely excluded. The report could have been an opportunity to assess and update fire safety guidance for all types of housing, so that landlords clearly understand the requirements. An updated report would enable landlords to make sure their properties are safe. It would also have enabled local authorities to improve risk assessments and enforcement to prevent rogue or illegal landlords from exploiting any potential loopholes in the regulations.
The RLA is particularly concerned about the responsibility for blocks of flats and bedsit accommodation being split between local councils and the fire services, which could lead to confusion. RLA policy consultant, Richard Jones, said that the Grenfell Tower tragedy must never happen again. He said it was important that this government review of fire and building safety regulations looks at the whole picture and does not just focus on tower blocks.
He argued that clear guidance is needed to cut through the increasing amount of information which can cause confusion for everyone concerned – local authorities, fire services, landlords and tenants. He said that clearer guidance is needed to reinforce risk assessment strategies, with better transparency about who is responsible for which areas. He said that it is important to get this right, as we owe it to the memory of everyone who died in the Grenfell Tower disaster and their loved ones.
Certainly, it seems as though the government is missing the opportunity to review its overall regulations concerning buildings and fire safety regulations. Landlords can only do so much in their risk assessment checks and during other routine inspections of properties. It needs joint management between landlords and property owners, local authorities and fire services, to ensure that a high level of fire safety procedures are in place across the UK. Also, the tenants themselves need to ensure that they are aware of the particular fire procedures in their homes and that they do not block, damage or open fire doors or other escape routes, for example.
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