Smoke alarms and tenants
Kirklees Council in West Yorkshire has taken action to force access to properties in order to carry out fire safety work. Three of the Council’s tenants and one private leaseholder refused access to their flats when the Council asked for entry to complete repairs to smoke detectors.
The Council had previously issued a warning that they were to trial the filing of injunctions to force entry for fire safety improvements. Warrants for access have now been granted.
Building regulations have been in place since June 1992 that any new properties built after 1st June had to have a hard-wired smoke alarm installed on every floor. In 2020 a white paper was published on social housing and set out the reforms to speed up complaints procedures for residents. That Charter provides satisfaction measures that landlords have to report against, including ensuring a home is in safe and good repair. The Council, therefore, has a responsibility to the tenants to make sure smoke detectors are in good repair; the difficulty here came when they could not fulfil their obligation due to non-cooperation.
Every social housing resident should expect the following from their landlord under the Charter:
- To be safe at home.
- To know who the landlord is performing with particular regard to repairs, complaints and safety.
- To have complaints dealt with promptly and fairly.
- To be treated with respect, backed by a strong consumer regulator and improved consumer standards.
- To have the tools to ensure a landlord listens.
- To have a good quality home and neighbourhood with a landlord keeping the home in good repair.
- To be supported in taking a first step towards ownership.
Since the Grenfell tragedy, there has been a focus on fire safety within social housing. Alongside the white paper, a consultation was also published on domestic smoke and carbon monoxide, which has now been concluded. As a result, the government intends to bring forward the following changes “as soon as possible”:
- social landlords to be obliged to ensure at least one smoke alarm is installed to each storey of the home.
- both social and private landlords to be obliged to ensure a carbon monoxide alarm is installed in any room in the home with a fixed combustion appliance.
- in any home, when a new fixed combustion appliance is installed, a carbon monoxide alarm will be required by law to be installed.
- landlords will be legally obliged to repair or replace alarms once informed they are faulty.
In 2017 Havering Council sought a similar enforcement action to be able to enter premises to ensure gas safety checks were complete. This related to properties where Gas Safety Certificates had not been produced. The Council, in this case, added the court costs to the rent accounts, and where entry had to be forced, the cost of new locks was charged to the tenant.
It should be noted, therefore, that the new measures that landlords have to comply with also come with an obligation on the tenant to enable access for the checks and repairs.
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[Image: “If only he could turn back time” by Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Govt is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0 ]