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Fire safety in residential accomodation

Comment 27th July 2010

The law on fire safety for residential accommodation is extremely complex. All properties are covered by the Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS). If the property is a house in multiple occupation (HMO) then depending on whether it is licensed or not (five occupants or more and three storeys or more) then license conditions will deal with fire safety. Other HMOs are covered by the HMO Management Regulations. If the property is bedsits or flats then in addition the Fire Safety Order (Regulatory Reform Order) (FSO) applies. This results from gold plating of European legislation. Where the FSO applies strictly speaking it only applies to the common parts not the individual units e.g. flats. This in itself is nonsense because you need to look at the building as a whole!

The Residential Landlords Association believes that residential accommodation should be taken outside the FSO altogether so that it is simply dealt with under HHRS and where applicable the relevant HMO legislation. Special provision would need to be made for mixed residential/business accommodation e.g. flats over shops. Where there are workers at the property (e.g. a caretaker) the employer would still be responsible for fire safety of any non resident worker at the premises. In the usual way the employer would have to carry out the appropriate risk assessment (but not on the tenants/residents). Where the employee was resident when not working e.g. live in care taker, then he/she would be treated like any other tenant/resident. Caretaker etc residential accommodation would be treated like other resident/tenant accommodation. Deciding which legislation applies is a nightmare. Bringing the non domestic parts of buildings such as flats and bedsits into the FSO net was wholly unnecessary. It resulted because two pieces of legislation were being taken through Parliament at the time and no one tried to mesh the two together.  

Why does this matter?

This will help simplify a very complex area of the law.

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