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Residents in high rise blocks let down by ‘confused’ guidance on fire safety

People living in high rise tower blocks across the UK are being let down by a system in which it is hard to hold to account a single person or organisation for fire safety measures.

As thing currently stand, responsibilities for various aspects of fire safety are shared between the owners of a block, the fire services, the local authority and the owner of individual flats, which can often create confusion over who is responsible for carrying out important fire safety improvements.

But the Residential Landlords Association (RLA) believes that a single identifiable person should be responsible for assessing and overseeing fire safety measures in a residential building.

In a fresh submission to the government’s building regulation review, led by Dame Judith Hackitt, following the tragic events at Grenfell Tower, the RLA calls for a new system that ensures fire measures in each residential building is overseen by an appointed individual.

Such individuals, the RLA argues, should be supported by the creation of a new fire safety compliance code to make sure others involved with the building, such as occupiers, play their part.

This should be backed up by ensuring that there is one enforcement body on fire safety measures, a responsibility that is currently split between local councils and the fire service.  

Currently, landlords are expected to abide by fire safety guidance which was issued by LACORS, a body that no longer exists, fire safety regulations that date back to 2005 and building regulation guidance issued in 2006. This is in addition to guidance published in 2006 which covers the Housing, Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS), used by councils to assess risks in dwellings.  

However, in its submission the RLA warns that contradictory and outdated fire safety guidance needs updating to better support good landlords. 

RLA policy consultant, Richard Jones, said: “It is vital that the right lessons are learnt to prevent a tragedy such as Grenfell Tower happening again.

“Whilst there are widespread powers and regulations already available to ensure properties are safe, too often they are not being properly applied as a result of confused and sometimes contradictory guidance and no single person having overall responsibility for fire safety in a residential building.

“This needs to change to give residents piece of mind and ensure much better lines of accountability on such serious issues.”

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