The fine encountered by a private landlord in Devon this week shows just why residential landlords must ensure they know about every facet of the business when undertaking a career providing housing for other people.
Tenants flee for their lives
The landlord in question walked out of court £158,000 poorer after being fined for breaches of fire safety rules, in an incident which saw his tenants fleeing across roof tops to protect themselves from the conflagration below. Enquiries into the fire showed that the landlord had neglected to put a fire safety door in the ground floor flat, which enabled a fire in the flat to spread into the escape route of the other tenants in the House of Multiple Occupation (HMO). Further inquiries found that three other doors in the building were not fitted with self closing devices and also contributed to the spread of the fire.
Message to all landlords
In all the landlord encountered the massive fine for putting his tenant’s lives at risk for the price of four good fire doors. All landlords should take notice of the case and make sure they take all essential measures to protect their tenants and of course their own business. It would be foolhardy indeed for a private landlord to set himself up without landlord insurance cover, it would be illegal not to have such things as gas appliances annually checked.
HMOs statistically vulnerable to fire
Fire statistics show that residents of HMOs are at a far higher risk of dying in a house fire than those living in normal homes. A resident in a HMO is six times more likely to die in a house fire, but this increases to sixteen times when the HMO is more than three storeys high. For this reason HMOs come under special attention from legislation and local councils. They also come under special rules with more than one property insurance company and a landlord should check this out before he takes a policy.
Get to know the law
Landlords should familiarise themselves with all the rules and regulations that apply, including the Housing Act 2004, Part 1 which gives Local Housing Authorities extensive duties and powers to remedy hazards within residential property. They should also note that Councils work together with local fire and rescue services which enforce fire safety legislation. The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 replaces the two major pieces of fire safety legislation, the Fire Precautions Act 1971 and the Fire Precautions (Workplace) Regulations 1997.
The buck stops with you
The legislation notes that risk assessment will be used as the basis for compliance and that the person held liable for any breach is the person responsible for the building.