NHMF best practice

These two new best practice sections will help social landlords to maintain quality homes in an increasingly challenging economic environment. The Compliance Section has a set of topical guides summarising social landlords’ responsibilities for meeting essential statutory health and safety requirements and explain how to do this economically and efficiently. The Fuel Saving Section explains how to include a fuel saving strategy as a key aspect of an organisation’s business plan. The Guide then sets out how to develop a practical improvement strategy as an integral part of the asset management programme and how to successfully deliver the improvements and manage the risks. There are also best practice training courses which relate to this guide.

Fire safety

Scope

This guide covers social landlords’ responsibilities for fire safety in residential premises, including individual homes, purpose-built blocks of flats and sheltered housing. It does not cover property protection or insurance requirements in the case of fire.

High rise towers and fire safety – urgent action for Registered Providers

Anthony Collins Solicitors have prepared the following briefing note to help address the immediate and medium-term issues for fire safety, whether or not tower blocks are subject to DCLG testing.

Read more

  • What should landlords be doing after the fire at Grenfell Tower?

    Landlords should:

    • Sign up to the weekly updates from the Government’s 'Building Safety Programme' so that they can keep up to date with the investigations into the Grenfell Tower fire.
    • Check that they are complying with all the current fire safety legislation, in particular ensuring that their fire risk assessments are up to date and they are acting on those assessments. The NHMF Best Practice website provides links to the legislation and sources of approved guidance, such as ‘Fire safety in purpose-built flats’.
    • Study the interim guidance the Government has published.
  • Will fire safety regulation be changed in response to Grenfell Tower?

    It is very likely that fire safety regulation will be changed but only after all the factors that contributed to the fire at Grenfell Tower have been investigated. The Government’s ‘Building Safety Programme’ is the best source of advice on these investigations, emerging findings and on what landlords should be doing in response.

  • Will Part B of Building Regulations (fire safety) be changed?

    It is expected that part B will be changed. The Government announced an independent review of building regulations and fire safety, led by Dame Judith Hackitt, Chair of EEF.

  • What will the Government’s Review examine?

    It will examine:

    • The regulatory system around the design, construction and on-going management of buildings in relation to fire safety
    • Related compliance and enforcement issues
    • International regulation and experience in this area
  • Who will the Review consult?

    The Review will consult:

    • The Buildings Regulations Advisory Committee (BRAC) – which advises the government on changes to building regulations
    • The construction and housing industry
    • The fire sector, international experts
    • MPs
    • The public
  • When will the Review be completed?

    An interim report will be submitted to Government in Autumn 2017, with the final report in Spring 2018.

  • What will the Government do following the Review?

    The Government will publish its response by laying it before Parliament.

  • When will changes to fire safety regulation be made?

    No timetable has been given by Government as to when any changes will be introduced.

  • What are the terms of reference for the Review?

    The Government has published the full terms of reference.

  • What should landlords do who have a Primary Authority partnership for fire safety?

    Landlords need to check with their Primary Authority partnership:

  • What is a Primary Authority partnership?

    The NHMF has published a case study on a Primary Authority fire safety partnership.

Landlords are responsible for ensuring fire safety, with the main duty being to carry out and act on fire risk assessments.

The Housing Act 2004 covers England and Wales and applies to individual homes, including the licensing of houses in multiple-occupation (HMO) and other residential accommodation. The Act introduced the Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS) for use in England and Wales. The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 (the FSO) applies to common parts of blocks of flats.

In England and Wales, fire risks to individual homes are assessed through the HHSRS. Both the Housing Act and the FSO apply to purpose-built blocks of flats, with the FSO bringing common parts of blocks of flats within the scope of mainstream fire safety legislation for the first time. The FSO requires fire risk assessments to be carried out and acted upon rather than meeting a set of prescribed measures. In addition to the FSO, other guidance such as the Government’s Fire safety risk assessment: sleeping accommodation can be useful. All new housing, including conversions and "material alterations" needs to comply with the fire safety requirements of the Building Regulations (Part B). Building Regulations do not apply retrospectively to existing properties but any major refurbishment and improvement work should not make the level of fire performance worse. While not mandatory, such major refurbishment and improvement work, when considered alongside the most recent Fire Risk Assessment, is an opportunity to consider the practicalities and economics of improving the fire performance of building.

In Scotland, guidance is provided in relation to sleeping accommodation under Part 3 of the Fire (Scotland) Act 2005, as amended. The Act applies to most non-domestic premises (premises which are not private dwellings) and to HMOs which require a licence. It requires those persons with responsibility for premises to ensure the safety of others by putting in place appropriate fire safety measures based on an assessment of risk.

In Northern Ireland, HMOs and flats and maisonettes are covered by the Housing (Northern Ireland) Order 1992 but the Fire Safety Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2010 apply to other residential sleeping accommodation, such as hostels.

The HHSRS under the Housing Act is enforced by local authorities, for category 1 hazards an improvement notice will be served or, in more extreme cases, a prohibition order may be served. The Act gives local authorities powers of access for the purposes of inspecting to see if a category 1 or 2 hazard exists. The FSO is enforced by the local fire and rescue authority. Building Regulations are enforced by the Building Control Body (either local authority building control or a private-sector approved Inspector).

Social landlords also have to comply with specific legal requirements for housing and those relating to maintaining safe and healthy homes set out in each country’s regulatory framework (see Housing Regulators below). The relevant housing legislation for each country is set out below. 

In England and Wales the Housing Act 2004 applies to individual homes, including the licensing of houses in multiple-occupation (HMO) and other residential accommodation. Risks are assessed through the Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS).

The relevant legislation in Scotland is the Housing (Scotland) Act 2014 and for Northern Ireland main legislation is the Housing (Northern Ireland) Order 1981, with all relevant legislation listed by the Department for Social Development.

In England, the Regulator of Social Housing (RSH), requires registered providers to comply with its Regulatory Standards. On 1 October 2018 the RSH became a standalone public body, independent from the Homes and Communities Agency (HCA). On 11 January 2018, the HCA’s non-regulation arm adopted its new trading name Homes England. Managing fire safety is covered by the Home Standard that requires meeting all statutory requirements for the health and safety of occupants.

In Wales, all social landlords are required to meet and maintain the Welsh Housing Quality Standard (WHQS) as soon as possible, with 2020 the absolute deadline. In relation to fire safety, landlords are to ensure easy escape routes and provide sufficient fire and smoke alarms.

In Scotland, social landlords are required to meet the minimum Scottish Housing Quality Standard (SHQS). Meeting the SQHS includes compliance with Technical Guide for healthy, safe and secure homes. For fire safety landlords should provide at least one smoke detector in each property and maintain them. The Scottish Housing Regulator expects compliance with all statutory and regulatory obligations including fire safety.

In Northern Ireland the Department for Social Development regulates registered housing associations under the Regulatory Framework for Registered Housing Associations in Northern Ireland 2006. Regulatory Standard 3.3 states that housing associations must develop manage and maintain good-quality homes that seek to meet people’s needs and preferences now and in the future. This includes meeting the Decent Homes Standard and compliance with all statutory and regulatory obligations including fire safety.

Comprehensive guidance is available on Fire safety in purpose-built flats. While this deals specifically with purpose-built flats, it also provides advice on all legislation and guidance relating to residential fire safety. In particular the guidance explains how to commission, carry out and act on fire risk assessments. To ensure that recommended work from fire risk assessments is carried out, one landlord requires assessors to produce a schedule of works for each scheme assessed so that the identified remedial works can be collated and used in any procurement exercise. Guidance is also provided on fire and smoke alarms, emergency lighting, wet and dry risers, fire fighting equipment and extinguishers, sprinklers and sprinkler systems, smoke vents, fire doors, building compartmentation and bin chute fire dampers. The London Fire Brigade has published advice "Know the Plan" for those living in blocks of flats and for landlords.

Some landlords carry out weekly inspections of common areas to check that fire protection systems, including fire doors, are in good working order. Landlords have a management responsibility to ensure that residents do not compromise fire safety by, for example, replacing flat entrance self-closing fire doors with non-compliant ones. Landlords are responsible for providing advice to residents about fire escape routes and what they should do in the event of a fire. Based on a landlord’s fire risk assessments, policies may be needed in relation to the management of common parts and means of escape in blocks of flats i.e. to what extent they should be kept clear.

For landlords with stock in more than one local authority that would normally involve dealing with each local enforcing authority, the government set up the Primary Authority scheme scheme to provide regulatory certainty and consistency. Fire safety has been included in the scheme, which applies to England and Wales. Some landlords have established a Primary Authority agreement with a fire and rescue authority, particularly in relation to older and vulnerable people’s housing for which fire safety is more complicated. Community Housing Cymru has been developing a coordinated partnership for welsh housing associations.

Guidance on fire safety provisions for certain types of existing housing is available for landlords and fire safety enforcement officers in both local housing authorities and in fire and rescue authorities on how to ensure adequate fire safety in certain types of residential accommodation. This guidance covers a range of residential accommodation and includes case studies for single dwellings, shared houses, bedsits, flats and flats which are multi-occupied. However, many of the issues are addressed in the "Purpose-built flats" guidance.

 

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