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PainSmith Solicitors Legal Update - 24 October 2006

The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 and HMOs - Information 17 April 2007

Implementation of the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) (England & Wales) Order 2005

The Regulator Reform (Fire Safety) (England & Wales) Order 2005 came into force On October 2006. This order brings together a large amount of legislation relating to obligations to make premises fire safe. It applies to employers but also has application to the common parts of HMOs and blocks of flats. Guidelines have previously been published on the necessary standards for compliance and are available from the Department for Communities and Local Government website.

It has been suggested, principally by the Residential Landlords Association that the Order should not apply to individual private houses which are occupied by sharers as these are excluded by the paragraph in the Order which states that it does not apply to 'single private dwellings'.

At the current time the majority of Fire & Rescue Authorities, who have responsibility for enforcing the Order, do not accept this position and will enforce the Order against all HMOs as defined by the Housing Act 2004. It should be noted that this means properties with three or more occupiers who are living in more than one household and not just properties which are required to be licensed.

It is also notable that Local Authority Environmental Health Officers, who are responsible for enforcing the Housing Health And Safety Rating S stem (HHSRS), are tending to take the view that the required standard for fire safety set b the HHSRS should be the same as that set b the Order. As the HHSRS applies to all rental property Landlords and Agents should take careful note of the Order and seek to move all their property towards that standard.

The Government has set up a new fire safety website (www.fire.gov.uk) which provides a brief guide for landlords of HMOs as to the standards the need to meet. This can be found b following the 'Legal Requirements' link form the home page.

Dr David Smith is a trainee solicitor with PainSmith Solicitors, a niche practice specialising in residential landlord and tenant law. He can be contacted on 01420 565310 or by email at david@painsmith.co.uk. If you wish to subscribe to the free legal updates service then you should email update@painsmith.co.uk with the phrase "subscribe updates" in the subject of the email.

PainSmith Solicitors Legal Updates are provided for information only and are not legal advice. If you do have a legal problem, you should talk to a lawyer or adviser before making a decision about what to do. You may wish to use the CLS/CDS Directory (www.justask.org.uk/public/en/directory) to locate an adviser. The information provided here is written for people resident in, or affected by, the laws of England and Wales only. You should note that date given in the update and be aware that the information given may become inaccurate due to changes in the law or its implementation.

PainSmith Solicitors

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The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 and HMOs - Information 17 April 2007

The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 and HMOs When the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 (RRFSO) was introduced a number of groups highlighted a crucial inconsistency in the regulations. The regulations clearly stated that they applied to the common parts of HMOs but also stated, equally clearly, that they did not apply to single, private dwellings.

This left landlords of properties that were basically private houses but happened to be let to three or more sharers in something of a quandary as the regulations were somewhat contradictory. PainSmith Solicitors, in common with many other providers, advised at the time that landlords and agents should do their best to comply with the regulations in any event until the situation was clarified. It was expected that the DCLG would provide guidance early in 2007 although this has not yet been received. Simultaneously the Chief Fire Officers Association (CFOA) has convened a working group which is looking at a number of aspects of the regulations with the aim of publishing further guidance.

CFOA is shortly looking to communicate the results of its deliberations. They are now taking the view, which is expected to be endorsed by the DCLG, that single, private dwellings let as HMOs will not be covered by the RRFSO. They accept that this is not a particularly satisfactory outcome but it does represent the most commonsensical approach.

The CFOA working group is expecting to make its guidance available over the next two weeks or so. They are also working on a full guidance for fire standards in HMOs which should be available for consultation late this yea with an expected final publication date in December 2007.

Agents are reminded that, even though the RRFSO will not apply to HMOs which are single private dwellings, the HHSRS applies to all residential rented premises and will continue to do so and that the standard being applied for fire safety by Environmental Health Officers carrying out inspections is the same as that set out by the RRFSO so it is probable that this altered guidance will have little actual effect.

The CFOA website can be found at (www.cfoa.org.uk)

Dr David Smith is a trainee solicitor with PainSmith Solicitors, a niche practice specialising in residential landlord and tenant law. He can be contacted on 01420 565310 or by email at david@painsmith.co.uk. If you wish to subscribe to the free legal updates service then you should email update@painsmith.co.uk with the phrase "subscribe updates" in the subject of the email.

PainSmith Solicitors Legal Updates are provided for information only and are not legal advice. If you do have a legal problem, you should talk to a lawyer or adviser before making a decision about what to do. You may wish to use the CLS/CDS Directory (www.justask.org.uk/public/en/directory) to locate an adviser. The information provided here is written for people resident in, or affected by, the laws of England and Wales only. You should note that date given in the update and be aware that the information given may become inaccurate due to changes in the law or its implementation.

PainSmith Solicitors

* PainSmith Solicitors are a niche practice specialising in Landlord and Tenant Law. Based in Medstead in Hampshire, they are ideally situated to provide an efficient service to clients nationwide as well as those based in Central London and the Home Counties.

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