Safety Matters as does Due Diligence

The fire at Grenfell Tower block on 14 June in North Kensington, killed at least 80 people and sadly, bought to light failure on so many levels. Of the 82 buildings that failed the latest test, 47 are local authority or housing association-owned or managed. The new fire safety test set up in the wake of this tragedy, examines the safety of building cladding and insulation in combination.It comes as an independent review has been announced by the government focusing on building regulations and fire safety, as well as current building regulations and fire safety.

The Independent Review

The independent review will be led by Dame Judith Hackitt, of the Manufacturers' Organisation. It will report report jointly to Communities Secretary Sajid Javid and Home Secretary Amber Rudd. The review will examine:

  • the regulatory system around the design, construction and on-going management of buildings in relation to fire safety compliance and enforcement issues
  • international regulation and experience in this area

Mr Javid said building regulations and fire safety needed to be looked at "urgently". He added: "This independent review will ensure we can swiftly make any necessary improvements. Government is determined to make sure that we learn the lessons from the Grenfell Tower fire and to ensure nothing like it can happen again."

With the focus on safety, in particular fire safety, where does this leave the private landlord who owns residential dwellings  which do not fit into the same category as the tower blocks? These landlords are bound by several hundred pieces of Statute. The landlord's obligations, in terms of safety, range from ensuring that every tenant is in receipt of a valid gas safety certificate to abiding by the criteria set out in the Housing Health & Safety Rating System (HHSRS).

The penalties range from "fixed fines" to possible terms in prison and there is case law to support this. Electrical safety regulations are due to become mandatory under the Housing & Planning Act 2016, the private rented sector, however, it has always been felt that  social housing organisations and local authorities were much more stringent when it came to ensuring electrical appliances were safe. It is not known whether the fridge which caused the fire in the tower was supplied by the local authority or in fact belonged to a tenant.

Once again the spot light is on housing, sadly, for the wrong reasons. The owners of any type of rented property must remember that they have a Duty of Care to their tenants, they must ensure that the property in question is "fit for purpose". The role of social housing providers, builders, developers, construction specialists, local authorities, councillors, Government raises concern in a day and age when such incidents should never be allowed to happen.