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What do you need to know?

Information for Local Authorities, Registered Social Landlords, and landlords of private residential blocks.  

Overview and introduction

Landlord's responsibilities – Group A 

This page provides an overview of our specialist advice for Group A Landlords: that's  Local Authorities, Registered Social Landlords, and landlords of private residential blocks.

You will find more detailed information in our audit tool for refurbished buildings, councillor guides and guidance notes below. We also recommend that you review the Building Safety Programme on gov.uk – it is the co-ordinated national response to the fire at Grenfell Tower, and provides a wealth of information.

Essential reading and tools for Group A Landlords

Fire safety in refurbished buildings – Audit Tool

Download PDF (127kb)

Councillor guide on fire safety for use during council meetings

Download PDF (834kb)

Councillor guide on fire safety for use during estate visits

Download PDF (113kb)

GN 11 – Security Doors

Download PDF (159kb)

GN 84 – Fires in Communal Areas

Download PDF (440kb)

Areas for attention

Fire detection and Carbon Monoxide detectors

Landlords are required by law to have at least one smoke alarm installed on every floor of their properties and a carbon monoxide alarm in any room containing a solid fuel burning appliance (eg a coal fire, wood burning stove). You must also make sure the alarms are in working order at the start of each new tenancy.

However, we strongly recommend an additional heat detector in the kitchen, and a smoke alarm in the lounge and hallway of individual flats and houses to give early warning to residents.   

There's a useful booklet that explains what's required on gov.uk here

 

Fire doors

Fire doors stop the spread of heat and smoke in the event of a fire.
Without this vital fire protection residents won't be able to evacuate when necessary due to smoke logging and high temperatures in escape routes.

Poor adjustment of self closing devices or inappropriate choice of closer type can cause fire doors to close very quickly and bang, disturbing residents. To stop this, residents wedge fire doors open to stop the door fully closing and banging. This can weaken the door closing device and stop the door from properly closing, making the door less effective at stopping the spread of fire.

You need to:

  1. Make sure all flat front doors and doors on corridors and staircases must be ‘self closing’ fire doors.
  2. Make sure ‘self closing’ fire doors are fitted on all flats, corridors and staircases.
  3. Check that doors don’t bang shut, to avoid them being wedged open.
  4. Regularly check door closing devices haven’t been tampered with or become defective.

Find out more on the fire doors for property managers page.

 

Storage and security

Tenants storing belongings in communal areas can pose a real risk to safety. Items can accidentally be set alight, or be set alight deliberately. In the event of fire items in hall ways and on stairs can stop people escaping, and stop firefighters doing their job.

You need to:

  • Ensure that corridors, stairs and stairwells are clear.
  • Make sure electrical and gas riser cupboards aren’t used to store anything.

Fire protection and ‘fire stopping’ in service risers, between flats, and between flats and means of escape routes

Fire protection and fire stopping to service risers, and between individual flats, corridors and the means of escape routes prevents the rapid spread of fire throughout blocks of flats – and is essential.

Unfortunately, this is often breached when utility companies (gas, electricity, TV cabling etc) run new services between flats, or between common parts and flats. In our experience these breaches are often not resealed correctly with fire resisting material/stopping to maintain the fire protection.

 

Building, refurbishment and redecoration

The Fire Safety Order stipulates that risk assessments should be reviewed if any material change is planned within an occupied building. This includes changes to compartmentation arrangements, refurbishment and redecoration works particularly if these works affect the common parts of the building.

You will need to:

  1. Complete a risk assessment.
  2. Act on the findings of the fire risk assessment and ensure adequate general fire precautions continue.
  3. Consider evacuation as part of your risk assessment.

If, for any reason, you feel that your property may not comply with Building Regulations and the Fire Safety Order, the emergency plan and evacuation strategy for the building needs to be changed and you should provide tenants with appropriate advice about the evacuation strategy and actions to be taken.

 

Replacement windows

Replacing windows, particularly uPVC window units can contribute to fire risk, if they’re not properly installed.

uPVC window units are often not as deep to the original units and create gaps. In the event of fire these gaps can allow fire into the wall cavity, increasing the damage to the building and increasing the risk to people in the building. 

Building Regulations require fire stopping around windows, but the problem may exist in many properties with windows that were replaced before April 2007.

You need to:

  • Have all windows checked by a surveyor.
  • Implement any changes recommended by the surveyor.

Non-fire resisting uPVC panels as part of replacement of window units can contribute to total failure of the windows during a fire. This can allow the fire to pass upwards across the exterior wall to the windows of flats above.

 

External spread of fire – cladding

Carefully consider your arrangements for specifying, monitoring and approving all changes to facades of buildings you are responsible. When installing and replacing elements of a building’s facade, including insulation, replacement double glazing and associated spandrel and in-fill panels you must:

  1. Comply with all parts of the Building Regulations.
  2. Document any changes and make information easily available for fire risk assessors.
  3. Update your evacuation plan and ensure your residents know the plan during the works and after the work is complete.
  4. Review your risk assessments for your premises during and after changes have been carried out.

Develop a strategy to prioritise these risk assessment reviews based on building characteristics such as height. Where necessary implement short, medium and long term actions to address the risks.

Your risk assessment must take into account other fire safety measures already in place, as well as potential mitigation measures to ensure that any potential fire spread does not pose a risk to health and safety.

All Local Authorities and Housing Associations received an instruction from DCLG on 18 June 2017 to carry out safety checks on cladding and further advice and guidance is available here.

 

Firefighting facilities

The facilities provided to support fire fighting in high rise blocks are critical, particularly if a ‘Stay Put’ emergency plan is in place.

Firefighting facilities must regularly checked and maintained, including:

  • Fire engine access
  • Fire fighting lifts
  • Firefighting lifts
  • Fire main inlets and risers
  • Smoke control systems
  • Premises Information Boxes
  • Clear signage for firefighters


Smoke ventilation systems

It is important that the ventilation strategy is fully understood for your building – including its purpose and function. This information should be included in both:

In order for any ventilation system to fulfil its function it is critical that flat front doors are maintained in good working order, are a minimum of FD30 and have a functioning self closing device.

Fire incidents – and our fire safety audits of premises – have demonstrated that in some cases, smoke ventilation systems installed in residential buildings are not operating correctly.

Natural smoke ventilation of common corridors, lobbies and staircases by windows or permanent vents is also being removed, obstructed or otherwise compromised. In the event of a fire there is the potential that smoke can be contained and spread within a building rather than being vented to the atmosphere via these dedicated smoke ventilation provisions.

Smoke ventilation of escape routes, combined with limitations on travel distance in corridors and lobbies, is designed to assist means of escape for both the occupants who have escaped from the flat that is on fire and for others who may choose to escape subsequently.

It may also be there to assist firefighters to gain access to the floor of the fire incident. As a result it is extremely important to design, install, and maintain these smoke ventilation provisions so that they operate correctly and safely.

We recommend that as part of your on-going maintenance and fire risk assessment programmes you arrange to have the smoke ventilation arrangements within your buildings checked and maintained by a competent person.

Where relevant, any automatic systems should be checked to ensure that the only vents that open are on the floor where the fire is first detected and those at the head of any smoke vent shaft and the stair. Vents on all other floors remain should closed, even if smoke were to be detected subsequently on those other floors.

Some smoke ventilation shafts have electromagnetic holding devices to secure/ release vents. These can have an unpredictable performance due to a loss of power to the devices, or through the magnetic fields of the devices being weakened as temperatures rise. This increases the likelihood of fire and smoke spread in a building, with no means to remotely re-set the vents that have opened.

If there's any doubt about whether your system has been designed and installed correctly in the first instance, or you require further guidance, the current industry best practice document is: ‘Guidance on Smoke Control to Common Escape Routes in Apartment Buildings (Flats and Maisonettes).

 

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