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Architectural ironmongers make robust challenge to fire door testing proposals 24/03/2023

THE GUILD of Architectural Ironmongers has strongly challenged new Government proposals for fire door testing. The proposals from the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities would remove the national classification system for construction products – BS 476 – and instead require classification to the British Standard version of the European Standard EN 13501, with testing to EN 1634 test standards becoming the new norm.

In its consultation response, the Guild of Architectural Ironmongers argued that there’s no evidence to suggest this change will make fire doors any safer. It will, however, have significant impacts throughout the architectural ironmongery and construction sectors.

The removal of assessments of products which can be fitted to fire doors will contribute to reduced interchangeability of fire door hardware, inevitably leading to product shortages and delays. The multimillion-pound cost of re-testing thousands of products is among a number of factors that would create competitive advantages for large global door manufacturers at the expense of specialist UK hardware businesses.

Reduced export opportunities and increased reliance on overseas products would, in turn, lead to a substantial loss of British jobs and expertise. Price rises as a result of these changes also introduce the risk of value engineering and reduced specification – and, therefore, greater safety risk – on fire doors.

Immense damage

Simon Forrester (pictured, above), chief executive at the Guild of Architectural Ironmongers, commented: “We believe that, in its current form, this proposal will cause immense damage to the UK’s world-class architectural ironmongery sector and problems throughout the architectural and construction sectors, while at the same time failing to deliver any meaningful benefits.”

Forrester continued: “BS 476 – or, more specifically, Part 22 of that standard – has successfully delivered robust safety assurances for timber fire door users for many years and is still widely recognised as fit for purpose. Indeed, post-Grenfell, testing volumes have increased even further in response to the demand for more primary test evidence.”

Further, he stated: “Among our members are companies that have spent hundreds of thousands of pounds on testing this year, with similar amounts budgeted for next year and beyond. One of our members has cited that its business alone has more than 600 BS 476 Part 22 tests which will become redundant if the proposed changes do go ahead.”

In conclusion, Forrester stated: “With the cost of each typical fire test in the region of £11,000, and current waiting times at six months or more for each test, and then another six months for the report, re-testing would cause huge disruption throughout the hardware and construction sectors, not to mention costing the industry many millions of pounds – a cost which would have to be passed on to developers and, ultimately, the consumer.”

Consultation response

The Guild of Architectural Ironmongers consultation response concludes: “We do not believe that there is any evidence to suggest that moving to classification in EN 13501 will make fire doors any safer or deliver any meaningful life safety benefits. We urge the Government to retain the acceptance of classification according to BS 476 22 for timber doors in order to help retain a significant body of test data, safeguard product availability for UK customers and protect vital overseas markets, which have become particularly important for many UK door hardware manufacturers and suppliers and are a great British export success story.”

*Read the full Guild of Architectural Ironmongers response to the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities consultation on the removal of national classes from Approved Document B at www.gai.org.uk/advocacy

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Coalition calls for “bolder action” to make new residential buildings safer 24/03/2023

THE ROYAL Institute of British Architects (RIBA), seven built environment bodies, fire safety organisations and disability rights groups have signed a joint letter to Michael Gove, the Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, urging the Government to reduce the height threshold for new residential buildings with more than one staircase to 18 metres (approximately six storeys) from the currently proposed 30 metres (approximately ten storeys).

Such a move would implement what the coalition members believe to be Best Practice, improving safety for occupants and harmonising standards within the wider regulatory environment. This move would also align with rules in Scotland, where an additional staircase in new residential structures of 18 metres and higher has now been a requirement for four years.

In addition to the RIBA, the letter was signed by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors, the Chartered Institute of Building, the National Fire Chiefs Council, the Housing Learning and Improvement Network, Disability Rights UK, Inclusion London and Claddag (the leaseholder disability action lobbying group).

RIBA president Simon Allford commented: “Five years have passed since the fire at Grenfell Tower, and still we must make the case and take bolder action to help prevent further avoidable tragedies. Decisive action to make buildings as safe as is reasonably possible is long overdue. We strongly urge the Government to improve fire safety standards. Clarity on appropriate staircase design and provision in residential buildings is essential.”

Allford went on to state: “We know that greater numbers of people are evacuating rather than adhering to ‘Stay Put’ policy instructions during fire incidents post-Grenfell. On that basis, we must ensure occupants have access to a safe and, importantly, smoke-free evacuation route.”

Further, Allford noted: “The RIBA has long called for clarity on staircase design and standards that help ensure people are safe in their homes. The Government’s current proposal fails to address our shared concerns. We stand ready to support Government action on addressing the points we’ve made.”

The letter can be viewed in full online.

Building a Safer Future Champions

Building a Safer Future – the non-profit organisation committed to raising standards in building safety and supporting required culture change in the built environment industry – has announced the first group of organisations to be awarded BSF Champion status, having successfully completed the former’s new building safety culture change assessment scheme.

The BSF Champion assessment process affords companies detailed insight into their existing leadership and culture around building safety and equips them with actionable data and practical tools to help review and upgrade processes, driving meaningful and measurable improvement in leadership and culture around building safety (and, in doing so, helping to rebuild public trust).

Organisations that have achieved Building a Safer Future Champion status include Barratt Developments plc, Galliford Try, Hill Holdings Ltd, Martin Arnold Ltd, MHS Homes, Morgan Sindall, Orion Fire Engineering Ltd, Persimmon Homes Ltd and Salix Hom.

Dame Judith Hackitt, chair of both the Independent Review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety and the Industry Safety Steering Group, commented: “Every journey of culture change starts with an open and honest assessment of where you are today. All of the companies who have achieved Building a Safer Future Champion status have shown the courage to look at themselves and understand the steps they need to take to improve and are now embarked upon that journey. Their leadership and the benefits they can demonstrate already from setting out on this journey should be a wake-up call to everyone else to make sure they’re on board.”

Steve Elliott, non-executive chair of Building a Safer Future, added: “I want to congratulate the companies achieving Building a Safer Future Champion status. They can take real pride in the leadership they’re showing in committing to a journey of continuous improvement in building safety. They have taken meaningful action instead of waiting for regulations to change, which should encourage many more organisations in the industry to follow their excellent example.”

Culture Change in Construction

Status awards were presented to the successful companies at the ‘Culture Change in Construction: Leading Building Safety’ Conference that was jointly hosted by UK Construction Week, Building a Safer Future and the Code for Construction Product Information on Thursday 23 March.

This high-level, one-day conference focused on showcasing and sharing learning and Best Practice from companies at the forefront of driving culture change in their organisations through the Building a Safer Future Champions programme.

Companies can apply to participate in the Building a Safer Future Champions programme by visiting the Building a Safer Future website at www.buildingasaferfuture.org.uk and completing the application form. Alternatively, they can send an e-mail direct to: alexander.caller@buildingasaferfuture.org.uk

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London Fire Brigade supports Government’s dual staircase proposals 20/03/2023

THE LONDON Fire Brigade is supporting proposals by the Government to make it mandatory for new residential buildings above 30 metres in height to have a minimum of two staircases in order to further improve building safety.

The Brigade has been challenging the practice of designing very tall buildings with only a single staircase for some time now. Responding to the Government’s consultation, it has reaffirmed support for the proposed changes to Building Regulations guidance.

The consultation was run by the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities and closed on Friday 17 March.

Staircases are not the only consideration when it comes to fire safety in buildings, and existing buildings with a single staircase will still be safe if they have appropriate fire safety measures in working order. However, the London Fire Brigade believes that multiple staircases in tall buildings improves resilience and makes buildings safer.

There are, of course, many considerations that go into maintaining fire safety in buildings, including the use of sprinklers, evacuation lifts and fire doors. When designed, built, and maintained correctly, all of these features combine to minimise the risk of fires in buildings.

A second staircase in a tall building can make it safer for those inside who may choose – or need – to evacuate in the event of a fire. The additional staircase also provides more resilience for firefighters when responding to incidents as it facilitates an additional access route and evacuation route for residents.

Planning applications

Back on 13 February, Sadiq Khan (the Mayor of London) announced that, with immediate effect, all new planning applications for tower blocks of 30 metres and above in the capital will need to include a second staircase in order to be considered for approval.

The London Fire Brigade has stated: “We hope that this decisive action will be replicated by the Government and rolled out across the rest of the country. We will continue to work closely with the National Fire Chiefs Council to ensure Government properly considers whether a lower threshold would be more appropriate.”

Clear threshold

Charlie Pugsley, assistant commissioner for fire safety in the capital, said: “Having pushed developers to include at least two staircases in tall residential buildings for some time, we support the Government’s plans to bring in this clear limit for new buildings over 30 metres. This introduction of a clear threshold will give clarity to developers, local authorities and communities alike and prevent the continued practice of increasingly tall buildings from being designed and constructed with only a single staircase.”

Pugsley added: “We also welcome the action taken by the Mayor of London to ensure that the Government’s proposed height threshold applies to new buildings being constructed in the capital.”

In its response to the consultation, the London Fire Brigade also strongly outlined its support for proposals to require sprinklers in new care homes. Sprinklers provide protection from fire damage and, most importantly, they afford people a greater chance of escape if there is a fire.

Making sprinklers a requirement in new care homes is a change that the Brigade has long advocated. The Brigade is also encouraging the Government to make it mandatory for sprinklers to be fitted into existing care homes.
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Leading developers sign Secretary of State’s building safety contract 20/03/2023

MICHAEL GOVE – Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities – has secured the signatures of the country’s biggest housebuilders on the developer remediation contract, which is being heralded as “a major step” towards ending the building safety scandal.

A total of 39 developers – including the top ten biggest housebuilders in the UK –all put pen to paper on the legally binding document before the deadline of Monday 13 March and, in doing so, irreversibly committed themselves to fix unsafe buildings which they developed or refurbished.

These signatories represent a substantial proportion of the housing market, while the signed agreements will raise at least £2 billion for remediation costs.

According to the Government, this news will come as a welcome relief for the thousands of innocent leaseholders and tenants whose homes are covered by the contract. Developers will now be legally bound to pay to fix their unsafe buildings and any eligible developers who fail to sign will not be able to operate freely in the housing market.

Progress on remediation

Following the passing of the contract deadline, Michael Gove commented: “I have been clear all along that those responsible for this crisis must pay. I’m grateful to those developers who’ve done the right thing by signing this legally binding contract. We will be monitoring their progress on remediation very closely to ensure this work is completed urgently and safely. For those developers that have taken responsibility, this period offers the chance for a reset such that they can focus on building more of the safe, decent and affordable homes we so desperately need.”

In addition, Gove warned: “To those developers that have failed to sign the contract without good reason, let me be very clear – we are coming after you. If you do not sign, you will not be able to operate freely in the housing market. Your investors will see that your business model is broken. Only responsible developers are welcome here.”

Further, the Secretary of State noted: “This day should not be about developers or about Government. Today is about innocent leaseholders. I want to put on record my apology to all leaseholders for the years of misery and hardship they have had to endure. They should never have been ignored, asked to pay or let down. This day marks a turning point and an important step towards resolving this crisis. There is so much more work to do. From a personal perspective, I will always act to protect leaseholders and seek to end this injustice.”

Requirements of signatories

Signatories are required to fix all life-critical, fire-safety defects in all English buildings over 11 metres in height in which they had a role in developing or refurbishing. It also requires them to reimburse the taxpayer where Government funds have already paid for remediation, with that money being used to make other buildings safe on a faster basis.

For developers who have signed, their obligations begin immediately. Leaseholders will benefit from a common framework of rights and responsibilities that will see their buildings fixed without them having to pay, while developers will be required to inform residents in affected buildings on how they will be meeting these commitments.

In due course, the Government will publish further information on how developers will be prohibited from carrying out major development or from receiving building control approval unless they sign and adhere to the contract. Powers outlined within the Building Safety Act 2022 will be enforced.

Further, regulations will establish the Responsible Actors Scheme and set out the criteria for eligibility as well as the conditions of membership. Eligible developers who do not sign the contract will not be able to join the Responsible Actors Scheme and will be subject to prohibitions.

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Fire Sector Federation issues benchmark standard for fire risk assessors 20/03/2023

THE FIRE Sector Federation has published its new Industry Benchmark Standard for Fire Risk Assessors in order to provide practical guidance for those risk assessors who want to understand the application of fire risk assessment across a range of building types. The overriding aim is to support the delivery of comparable standards right across the sector.

The document has been developed by the Fire Sector Federation’s Fire Risk Assessors Working Group and identifies criteria reflecting individual competency at three distinct core levels: the foundation standard, the intermediate standard and the advanced standard.

Further, it outlines increasing levels of skill, knowledge, experience and behaviour to form a competency-based progression route for fire risk assessors, spanning a clear career pathway for individuals from entry through Continuing Professional Development and on to the highest levels of competency achievable.

The Industry Benchmark Standard for Fire Risk Assessors document is unique in that it also seeks to match the three core levels of competency to the fire risk presented in three general types of buildings.

Expanding work on competency

Dennis Davis, executive officer at the Fire Sector Federation who leads the Fire Risk Assessors Working Group, commented: “The Industry Benchmark Standard for Fire Risk Assessors has been developed to expand and complement our previous work on competency. It supports the need for a systematic assessment of fire risk followed by the implementation of recommended appropriate controls and mitigation coupled with continuous management of fire safety.”

Davis continued: “Our aim is to raise the professional status of the important work undertaken by fire risk assessors. We also wish to engage with all those proficient assessors, operating without formal or recognised competency assurances, in order to help them seek appropriate independent accreditation.”

The tasks undertaken by the Fire Sector Federation’s Fire Risk Assessors Working Group will shortly move to a new phase of development through the British Standards Institution’s new Competence in the Built Environment Committee CPB/1 to create a British Standard Code of Practice.

Support from the IFE

The Institution of Fire Engineers (IFE) has welcomed publication of the Industry Benchmark Standard for Fire Risk Assessment. The organisation has reviewed the standard and is supportive of its content, which will become central to the IFE’s own fire risk assessor registration process moving forward.

Steve Hamm, chief executive at the IFE, explained: “The Fire Sector Federation’s benchmark aims to raise the professional status of the valuable work fire risk assessors undertake. We echo the Federation’s commitment to promoting competency.”

Hamm went on to state: “A number of our own members have been involved in the competency steering group work tasked with developing the principles that underpin this standard, and we have aligned our internal processes to ensure that future applicants to join the IFE’s Fire Risk Assessor Register will be assessed in line with this newly-launched benchmark standard. In turn, this will enable those seeking a competent fire risk assessor to benefit from the assurance provided by the rigorous IFE registration processes.”

Shaping future policy

As an organisation, the Fire Sector Federation seeks to exert influence on shaping future policy and strategy related to the UK’s fire sector. The Federation is a not-for-profit, non-Government organisation established to act as a forum for the benefit of its membership and to evolve as a central source of information on all aspects relating to fire safety.

*Copies of the Industry Benchmark Standard for Fire Risk Assessors are available to download by accessing the Fire Risk Assessment section of the Fire Sector Federation’s website at https://www.firesectorfederation.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2023/01/FSF_FRA_BenmarkStandard_Dec2022-Version1-1-1.pdf

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FSM Live 2023 Conference registration opens 20/03/2023

REGISTRATION IS now open for Fire Safety Matters Live 2023, which is a new one-day conference organised and run by Fire Safety Matters magazine and which takes place at the Coventry Building Society Arena on 15 June.

Free tickets to this event are limited so book your places now at www.fsmlive.co.uk to avoid disappointment.

Attendees will have access to seven hours of Continuing Professional Development (CPD)-accredited seminars and will receive a CPD certificate for attending.

Delegates will also be able to enjoy free teas, coffees, refreshments and luncheon in our exhibition area, which features 40-plus of the leading brands in the fire sector collectively showcasing all of the latest training, guidance, products, services and technology.

The conference is not to be missed as the opening address will be delivered by the Building Safety Regulator from the Health and Safety Executive. There will also be seminars presented by representatives from the Fire Industry Association, BAFE, the Security Systems and Alarms Inspection Board, the National Security Inspectorate, the Association for Specialist Fire Protection and more.

View the full FSM Live 2023 conference agenda by CLICKING HERE

Fire Safety Matters Live will also be co-located with the IFSM Technical Day (separate registration is required). 400-plus fire safety professionals are expected to attend on 15 June 2023 at the Coventry Building Society Arena.

Free tickets to this event are limited so book your places now at www.fsmlive.co.uk to avoid disappointment. 

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Experts call for “comprehensive review” of UK’s fire safety regulations 14/03/2023

LEADING ENVIRONMENTAL health experts have called for a “comprehensive review” of the UK’s fire safety regulations, with a keen focus on the environmental and health risks presented by current chemical flame retardants. Indeed, the health dangers of substances meant to improve fire safety have prompted experts to demand a range of new measures to reduce risk.

Flame retardants are widely used to slow down or stop the spread of fire. They are used regularly in a range of products – from sofas and textiles to building materials. However, hundreds of studies have reported on the adverse effects of these chemicals, many of which are bio-accumulative and have been linked to wide-ranging health risks including cancer, developmental disorders and DNA damage.

The UK exhibits some of the highest use of flame retardants in the world. Retardants have been found in a range of places including homes, schools, offices and vehicles. They’ve been found in air and dust, in food and drinking water and on indoor surfaces and textiles, where they can be absorbed through contact with the skin.

They are also found in natural environments, including rivers, lakes, oceans and sediments, as well as in fish, mammals and birds.

Such widespread use has, at least in part, been attributed to the flame ignition tests that are a primary focus of current fire safety regulations. Experts have questioned whether these tests are fit for purpose in reducing fire risk and believe the Government’s emphasis on these tests incentivises the addition of large amounts of fire retardants to products.

Experts have voiced the view that there’s also “significant uncertainty” about the extent to which flame retardants contribute to fire safety, and that there’s evidence to suggest flame retardants actually exacerbate smoke and fire toxicity.

Health risks

Dr Paul Whaley from Lancaster University explained: “There are long-standing concerns about the effectiveness of flame retardants and the health risks associated with them, which the UK Government has never adequately reconciled. This situation needs to change. There has to be a proper balancing of the harms and benefits of flame retardants that includes a comprehensive evaluation of the effectiveness of flame retardants as a fire safety measure, with serious attention paid to the unintended harms of UK fire safety policy.”

The evidence-based call to action by a group of 13 experts comes in the form of a research paper entitled ‘A New Consensus on Reconciling Fire Safety with the Environmental and Health Impacts of Chemical Flame Retardants’ published in the journal entitled Environment International.

The authors urge the Government to urgently conduct a thorough review of the need for chemical flame retardants want to see an end to any incentivisation for their use. Instead, the authors call for industry to be incentivised to develop ‘benign-by-design’ furniture and materials that are inherently less flammable. They also call for the development of a labelling system to track fire retardants’ use, allowing them to be identified and disposed of safely.

Also among their recommendations is the need to adopt a systemic approach to fire safety rather than a reductionist approach relying on ignition tests.

No time for delay

Professor Ruth Garside from the University of Exeter explained: “The use of flame retardants is problematic at all stages of the lifecycle, potentially even exacerbating smoke and toxicity during fires when they are supposed to provide a safety measure. With no clear labelling system in place, these substances are not disposed of correctly, which means they end up in recycled products.”

Garside added: “A significant proportion of fire deaths are caused by the inhaling of toxic fumes, so there’s no time to delay in reviewing the fire safety regulations. We urge the Government to take prompt action now for the benefit of everyone’s health.”

UK furnishing and fire regulations, such as the Furniture and Furnishings (Fire) (Safety) Regulations 1988, have been under review since 2014, but no revised policy has yet been formally proposed.

Professor Frank Kelly of Imperial College London, a co-author of the research paper, said: “There is understandable concern surrounding the weakening of existing fire safety regulations, and notably so in the wake of tragedies such as the Grenfell Tower fire. However, it’s vital that the use of these chemicals and their effectiveness in preventing fires is balanced with the serious long-term impacts on our health and the environment.”

Jamie Page of the Cancer Prevention and Education Society concluded: “Fire safety is a complex and multidisciplinary issue, but the processes are largely dominated by industry. Well-reasoned challenges to current approaches need to be heeded. This will require more inclusive and transparent public consultation processes that will bring together the views of different stakeholders.”

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Government allocates £42 million to support delivery of building safety reforms 14/03/2023

THE GOVERNMENT has announced that, over the next three years, more than £42 million is being set aside to support the delivery of tough new standards for managing safety aspects in higher-risk buildings brought in by the landmark Building Safety Act 2022.

The package consists of a £16.5 million grant to Local Authority Building Control, the representative body for local authority building control in England and Wales, and £26 million to support the Fire and Rescue Services in England as well as the National Fire Chiefs Council.

The grant funding will enable local regulators to recruit, train and employ new building control inspectors and fire inspectors. These local partners will support the work of the new Building Safety Regulator at the Health and Safety Executive in overseeing the safety and standards of the design, construction and management of higher-risk buildings, as well as strengthening the sector as a whole.

Around 110 building inspectors and 111 new fire protection officers will be recruited across England and receive high-quality training over a three-year programme designed to direct skills and resources to areas with a greater distribution of high-rise buildings.

Important reforms

Lee Rowley, the Minister for Building Safety, said: “The Government is delivering important reforms under the Building Safety Act, including the introduction of the new Building Safety Regulator to oversee building safety and performance. This taxpayer funding will give additional resource to local regulators who will support the work of the Building Safety Regulator in making buildings safer.”

Peter Baker, Chief Inspector of Buildings at the Health and Safety Executive, stated: “Local authority and Fire and Rescue Services are vital to the delivery of the new safety regime for higher-risk residential buildings. I welcome the work being conducted to quickly increase capability and capacity such that our regulatory partners can deliver their important roles. Our common goal is ensuring the success of the new regime in keeping residents safe in their homes both now and into the future.”

Local Authority Building Control CEO Lorna Stimpson commented: “We are delighted to have secured this funding to provide much-needed additional resources for our local authority members in England. Building control surveyors are a scarce commodity and so it’s important that we start to invest in this previously underfunded, but vital public service role. We welcome the role that local authority building control will have as part of the new Building Safety Regulator’s multi-disciplinary teams and in helping to implement the reforms recommended by Dame Judith Hackitt.”

Policy intent

National Fire Chiefs Council chair Mark Hardingham noted: “The National Fire Chiefs Council welcomes confirmation of the three-year funding for Fire and Rescue Services to recruit additional staff to support the new Building Safety Regulator. We will be working collectively with others to ensure that the new Building Safety Regulator delivers on the policy intent set out by Dame Judith Hackitt and, as part of that, establishes a sustainable funding model for Fire and Rescue Services that goes beyond the initial financial package.”

Under the new regime, building control inspectors, fire inspectors and fire engineers will be the local partner regulators of the new Building Safety Regulator at the Health and Safety Executive.

The Building Safety Regulator will have new powers and responsibilities to ensure the safety of all buildings as well as additional responsibilities in terms of how higher-risk buildings should be constructed and safely maintained.

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Fire safety failings realise £4,500 penalty for Cardiff landlord 10/03/2023

CARDIFF LANDLORD Christopher Harper has been ordered to pay just over £4,500 by the presiding Judge at Cardiff Magistrates’ Court for failing to rectify faults relating to two flats he owns and rents out in Claude Road, Plasnewydd.

Harper, from Spencer David Way in Trowbridge, did not attend Cardiff Magistrates’ Court for the hearing on Friday 24 February, but was convicted in his absence.

The case came to light following Harper’s refusal to comply with legal notices served on him to fix several faults at the rented properties following a previous prosecution against him in September last year.

Cardiff Magistrates’ Court heard that the defective fire alarm, inadequate structural fire protection and an insecure front door were still not fixed, while Harper continued to fail to submit gas and electricity certificates for these properties in line with the licensing requirements.

Rectifying the faults

Councillor Lynda Thorne, cabinet member for communities at Cardiff Council, said: “The majority of private sector landlords provide a very good service for their residents, but unfortunately there is a minority that do not. When we take these matters to court, we do this to benefit the residents living at these properties so that the faults identified are fixed and the properties made safe.”

Thorne continued: “This case shows that, when we successfully prosecute a private sector landlord, we do follow up these cases to ensure the issues are resolved. In this case, it became clear that Mr Harper wasn't willing to rectify the faults. That being so, legal notices were served on him. Failure to respond to and action these legal notices have resulted in him being brought to court again and ordered to pay a further £4,500.”

Further, Thorne stated: “Our officers will continue to act on intelligence that we receive and, in this case, we will continue to pursue the landlord until the faults have been rectified.”

Harper was fined a total of £3,000, ordered to pay £360 in costs and also a victim surcharge of £1,200 for failing to act on the legal notices that were served on him.
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HMO licence holder fined £25,000 due to fire safety breaches 14/03/2023

PROPERTY LICENCE holder Zivile Aksinaviciene has been fined a total of £25,800 by West Northamptonshire Council after “serious safety issues” were discovered at a shared house on Lutterworth Road in Northampton.

West Northamptonshire Council executed a warrant at the premises in May last year after concerns were raised. During the inspection process, the electrical meter was found to have been tampered with, seriously endangering the safety of the four people in residence.

Subsequently, West Northamptonshire Council instructed an electrician to attend the property and carry out emergency work to make it safe. Along with the unsafe electrics, a number of fire safety breaches were identified, among them poorly maintained fire doors and missing smoke alarms.

In December last year, West Northamptonshire Council fined Ms Aksinaviciene (of J&KO Property Ltd) £25,000 for breaching licence conditions in relation to a house in multiple occupation (HMO). Aksinaviciene had three months to appeal against the decision, which has now passed.

Property redress scheme

Anyone engaging in lettings or property management work must also belong to a property redress scheme which gives tenants the opportunity to seek independent help if their landlord or managing agent is ignoring their concerns. On the basis that Aksinaviciene was not part of such a scheme, she was fined an additional £800.

Following execution of the warrant, the owner took back responsibility for the property and carried out further work to make it safe. The HMO licence has subsequently been surrendered and the premises has been converted into a single-family house.

This case highlights the importance of licensing HMO properties and the need for those in charge of them to ensure any occupants are not put at risk.

Councillor Adam Brown, West Northamptonshire Council’s cabinet member for housing, culture and leisure, observed: “From some of the images captured at this address, it’s clear the licensee had little regard for the safety of the tenants. The housing team cannot visit every property, but this case demonstrates that we will take action when people contact us and voice their concerns over safety issues.”

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