Landlords, licensors and managing agents of houses in multiple occupations (HMOs) could face unlimited fines under new measures to be included in the Building Safety Bill, likely to come into force in 2022.
Reforms including the Building Safety Bill and amendments to the Fire Safety Order follow the Grenfell Tower tragedy and include measures to:
— Improve the quality of fire risk assessments and the competence of those carrying them out.
— Ensure vital fire safety information is preserved over the lifespan of all regulated buildings.
— Improve cooperation and coordination between those responsible for fire safety in a building and make it easier to identify who they are.
— Strengthen enforcement action – with anyone impersonating and/or obstructing a fire safety officer facing unlimited fines.
— Strengthen guidance issued under the Fire Safety Order so that failure to follow it may be considered in court proceedings as evidence of a breach of compliance.
— Improve the quality between Building Control Bodies and Fire Authorities in reviewing plans for building work.
— Require all buildings above 11m tall to install premises information boxes.
Many local fire service authorities are clamping down on their enforcement of fire safety breaches. The new measures will add further requirements to property guardian companies managing HMOs, particularly with regard to fire safety.
Remember that for properties occupied by guardians, it is essential that each building (whether a HMO or not) has a fire risk assessment to reflect its particular needs. There is no ‘one size fits all’ generic approach for fire safety. Properties occupied by guardians require smoke and fire detection; a protected escape route and a means to extinguish flames. Guardians should be reminded to call the fire brigade and vacate the building if they discover a fire.
A previous update discusses whether a guardian-property is an HMO. It also discusses the repercussions of failure to license an HMO, including the guardians’ right to apply to the First-Tier Tribunal (Property Chamber) for rent repayment orders. We are seeing a rise in property guardians seeking to challenge guardian companies and in some cases, its directors personally.
Our highly experienced Property Guardianship team can guide you through the process of understanding your obligations when it comes to HMO licensing and fire safety issues, as well as robustly defending your position when it comes to challenges from property guardians. If you need help, please get in touch.