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MPs have welcomed an announcement by the Housing Minister, Brandon Lewis, that the Government will make it obligatory for private landlords to install smoke alarms in rented properties. The measure is expected to take effect from October 2015.
The proposed changes to the law would require landlords to install smoke alarms on every floor of their property, and test them at the start of every tenancy.
The action comes after a Torbay MP Adrian Sanders raised the proposal in a Private Member's Bill in 2011, following the deaths of two children in Torquay in 2009.
Minister for Fire Resilience and Emergencies, Penny Mordaunt, during her speech at yesterday’s Local Government Association’s fire conference said: “I am pleased to be able to announce that following the consideration of responses to the public discussion paper on Property Conditions in the Private Rented Sector we are introducing regulations requiring private sector landlords to install smoke alarms on each storey of their property, carbon monoxide alarms in the rooms considered most at risk from high levels of carbon monoxide and to check the alarms are in working order at the start of any new tenancy.
“To aid this we will be providing additional one-off funding to fire and rescue authorities this financial year to enable them to support landlords in the transition to complying with these new regulations.
“We estimate the regulations will result in up to 36 fewer fatalities and 1,529 fewer injuries over a 10 year period.”
The Department of Communities and Local Government ( DCLG ) has pressured the Government to support a change in the law, commenting: “The economic benefit of reducing deaths from fire far outweighs the small cost of fitting smoke alarms.”
DCLG 2014 statistics showed that:
• Those without a smoke alarm in their home are at least four times more likely to die in a fire.
• 12% of properties overall do not have a smoke alarm fitted. Yet smoke alarms were absent in nearly 40% of house fire deaths, a disproportionately large figure that can be reduced through this regulation.
• Good landlords already fit smoke alarms to protect their tenants. This regulation ensures rogue landlords take the safety of their tenants – often the most vulnerable members of the community – seriously.
• Significant decreases in fire deaths have followed regulatory changes: foam-filled furniture, building regulations etc. This is the next logical step in reducing deaths from fire.
Communities Minister Stephen Williams said yesterday: “We’re determined to create a bigger, better and safer private rented sector – a key part of that is to ensure the safety of tenants with fire prevention and carbon monoxide warning.
“People are at least four times more likely to die in a fire in the home if there’s no working smoke alarm. That’s why we are proposing changes to the law that would require landlords to install working smoke alarms in their properties so tenants can give their families and those they care about a better chance of escaping a fire.”
Responding to the news, Labour MP Nick Raynsford, said that he was “delighted” that after more than a year of campaigning on this issue, the Government has decided to act.
The FIA has long supported this policy and in February publicised a report by the Local Government Association ( LGA ), ‘The Fire and Rescue Service: Making our Nation Safer’, which was launched in collaboration with the Chief Fire Officers Association (CFAO).
Brandon Lewis said the move would help prevent up to 36 deaths and 1,375 injuries a year, adding: “The vast majority of landlords offer a good service and have installed smoke alarms in their homes, but I’m changing the law to ensure every tenant can be given this important protection. But with working smoke alarms providing the vital seconds needed to escape a fire.”
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Commercial buildings, non-domestic and multi-occupancy premises in England and Wales are already forced to undertake a 'suitable and sufficient' fire risk assessment carried out under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005.
While the overwhelming majority of premises do this, if the assessment is thought to have been carried out to an insufficient extent, the Responsible Person can face an unlimited fine or up to two years in prison.