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A £670,000 fine for Developers, Managing Agent and Owners - The Cost of Poor Fire Safety?

Authors: Miriam Hanlon and David Hills

This latest action echoes the importance of the increased awareness of mutual responsibility within fire, with Owners, Managing Agent and Developers all fined.

 

The largest ever fine relating to current fire legislation has just been handed down (£670,000 plus costs) after mutual blame was found for ‘potentially catastrophic’ fire safety failures at Trinity Halls, a student accommodation block.

Trinity Developments Ltd, Niche Homes Ltd and APP Construction Ltd, (owners, managing agents and developers) have all been prosecuted by West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service (WYFRS) at Leeds Crown Court, after it inspected one of its properties amid concerns raised by parents of students moving their children into the block.

First brought to authorities’ attention in September 2016, the authorities were alerted by a concerned father who was dropping his daughter off to live there but refused to let her stay.

The Building Owners and Managing Agent each admitted four breaches of the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 including:

  • Failure to undertake a suitable and sufficient fire risk assessment
  • Failure to take precautions to make sure the premises did not present a fire risk
  • Failure to ensure an appropriate fire detection and alarm system was in place
  • Failure to ensure there were an appropriate number of fire escape routes and exits

Inspectors found:

  • One of two fire escapes was locked
  • No fire escape signage
  • Fire doors were without self-closing devices which could have led to fire spreading through the building
  • The upper floors of the building were still under construction with exposed timbers posing a potential fire risk

Dovetailing with the recent ‘Advice for Buildings Owners’ from the Government, this cements the need to ensure all parties are both aware of and actively undertaking their duties, if not for the safety of their occupants then to avoid crippling fines.

Property Managers should therefore note that in this case the Building Owners, Contractors and Property Managers were all found guilty and the liability could not be passed completely onto any individual party. 

This serves as a reminder for all those within property to manage fire safety through competent fire safety professionals, never assuming other organisations will do this on their behalf. 

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