>> West of England Fire Safety Protocol
Fire safety for landlords - how West of England authorities and Avon Fire and Rescue Service (AFS) will work together
The West of England authorities and Avon Fire and Rescue Service (AFS) have agreed to work together so that there are clear and practical arrangements to help landlords comply with both pieces of legislation, and have produced a Fire Safety Protocol.
Firstly, we have agreed to adopt the same approach to decide what fire safety measures are appropriate in a particular property. This is the risk assessment approach contained in national guidance commissioned by the Government. If the guidance is followed landlords can be confident they have met both sets of legal requirements. Information on the guidance can be found here.
The guidance has been written with landlords in mind and for the majority of properties there will be no need to employ fire risk assessors as the guidance is clear and methodical and includes a proforma on which to record the risk assessment. It is not a set of standards, there can be a number of ways of reducing the fire risk.
Secondly, West of England local authorities have agreed who will be the 'lead' authority for particular types of property (see below). This is to avoid duplication for landlords. However, this doesn't remove the legal powers each authority has - particularly if an emergency arises. We will be informing each other about the action we have taken.
What happens if the local authority inspect my property and find a fire safety hazard?
The local authority will assess the fire safety hazard using the Housing Health and Safety Rating System and will refer to the guidance to specify what work is needed. This work will reduce the fire safety hazard to a satisfactory level, but not necessarily to comply with all aspects of the guidance.
Landlords will be informed if the local authority believes the Fire Safety Order applies, this can be checked with AFS. If so, landlords will be advised to fully comply with the guidance - landlords should be aware that AFS may contact them at a future date to audit the risk assessment and fire safety measures provided as a result. If the Order doesn't apply, landlords will be encouraged to comply as 'best practice'.
What happens if Avon Fire and Rescue Service have required work to comply with the Fire Safety Order and the local authority then inspect my property?
AFS will only require fire safety measures in the common parts. However, if the guidance has been followed and fire safety measures have been provided to common parts and living accommodation the local authority will be satisfied that no actionable fire safety hazard exists as long as nothing has changed in the property.
What happens if I have converted the property to the latest Building Regulation standards for fire safety?
As long as there have been no alterations to the occupation and the layout, the property will comply with the Housing Act 2004 and Fire Safety Order; although other aspects of the Order will still need to complied with; for example, a written risk assessment needs to be in place.
What happens if the property is a licensed HMO?
You will have been informed by the local authority that you can either provide specific fire safety measures or follow the guidance.
If you have followed the guidance you will also have provided the fire safety measures that AFS require if the Fire Safety Order applies.
If you have carried out the specific measures you are likely to have provided satisfactory fire safety measures, but these would be assessed on inspection (see above). You will also need to consider if the Fire Safety Order applies.
What private rented properties will the Fire Safety Order apply to?
Further information can be found at www.avonfire.gov.uk and follow the link to Commercial Fire Safety. However, the following information has been provided in consultation with them and may assist. The Order applies to the common parts of properties let as:
What happens if there is a commercial part of the property that is completely separate from the living accommodation?
You are advised to follow the guidance for the living accommodation and consult with AFS about the commercial part and how there might need to be common fire safety measures eg fire alarm. If the local authority and AFS become involved in the property they will then liaise about any requirements and let you know what these are.
All this is still rather confusing, what is the best thing to do to make sure my property meets all legal requirements?
The guidance has been written to help landlords meet their responsibilities for fire safety and following this is strongly recommended to all landlords by the West of England authorities and Avon Fire and Rescue Service.