A “SMALL BUT VITAL STEP” TO FIGHTING FIRE AND SAVING LIVES
The Residential Landlords Association is pressing the government to change legislation so local authorities would formally become the single fire safety regulator for residential accommodation.
[UKPRwire, Wed Sep 12 2007] The Residential Landlords Association is pressing the government to change legislation so local authorities would formally become the single fire safety regulator for residential accommodation.
It would be, says the RLA: “a small but vital step forward in the necessary simplification process.”
The move would legalise the recent support of the national joint working group, set up by local authorities and chief fire officers, which backed the RLA case for a single regulator by making local authorities the lead enforcer rather than fire authorities.
The Residential Landlords Association, whose members own over 100,000 private rented properties throughout the UK, has campaigned, for some time, to cut through the confusion. The problem lies in the new Housing Act and Fire Safety Regulatory Reform Order giving two regulators, working within three sets of legislation and guidelines, different responsibilities to enforce fire safety in separate parts of residential properties.
“The local authority, guided by the Housing Act’s health and safety rating system, has general responsibility while the fire and rescue authority, applying the fire safety order, has jurisdiction only over communal areas,” says RLA lawyer and lobbying team leader, Richard Jones.
“But domestic and communal cannot each be considered in isolation. They pose a mutual threat – so risk assessment needs to be holistic.
“The confusion gets worse with larger ‘houses in multiple occupation’ - which are subject to mandatory licensing conditions that can impact on fire safety regulations.
“At the end of the day simplification can only enhance everyone’s safety from the dangers of fire. And common guidance will also help to banish the confusion of landlords who are anxious to meet the requirements of housing legislation.
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“They need more clear, simple and specific guidance for the different types of properties they rent out - from shared houses to bedsits and flats – because different fire precautions could be required depending on which legislation or guidance applies.
“The national working group has valiantly wrestled with the problems and suggested practical workable solutions. We now need to build on those by pressing for legislative changes that will make the fire safety order and 2004 Housing Act sit together more easily.
“With the local housing authority as the enforcer for residential premises, and the fire and rescue authority ultimately responsible for commercial and mixed-use premises, the private rented sector would come under a single statutory body that has the most experience of enforcing standards in residential accommodation.
“Requirements would then be linked to the type of premises – not to which particular piece of legislation applies or which enforcing authority is dealing with the situation. That is the key.”
Fire safety regulations are among several issues on which the Residential Landlords Association is campaigning. They include lobbying for the formal acceptance of a Code of Practice laying down expected standards for professional landlords, a common sense approach to the implementation of Housing Act licence conditions and fees relating to houses in multiple occupation, as well as a re-think on housing allowance payments, amenity standards and the Tenancy Deposit Scheme.
• The Residential Landlords Association is a leading national organisation for professional landlords, residential property investors and self-managers – with members owning over 250,000 properties in the UK private rented sector. The range of members’ services - on www.rla.org.uk - includes legal advice, insurance, financial services, credit referencing and training. For tenants there is www.tenantdocs.co.uk – where tips include a download of the RLA’s award-winning Plain English tenancy agreement. The RLA operates a web-based property search on www.homes2rent.net and publishes the bi-monthly Residential Property Investor magazine.
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