Upstairs Windows in 2 Bed Rental Property with only top openers

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    Upstairs Windows in 2 Bed Rental Property with only top openers

    As a private landlord I joined the Council Accreditation Scheme and had to jump through hoops to ensure my properties were up to scratch.
    I have been contacted by an existing tenant to request that I change the upstairs upvc windows to have side openers in case of a fire. I have trawled through the guidance issued by LACORS etal 2006 and contacted my Landlords Scheme to try to find out my LEGAL responsibilities regarding this. The council have told me to carry out an individual fire risk assessment as set out by FENSA but this only relates to installing new windows, they would not confirm why this is not included in their assessments and if it is a Legal Obligation. Help please

    #2
    The property needs to be safe in the case of fire, but there are millions of different layouts of houses across the country so one rule for all is not always practical.

    I would start from the viewpoint that if she lived in a 25 storey tower-block, would the tenant expect a window to climb out of? Of course not - she would be happy with the stairs (lift turned of in case of fire). In that case, the single set of stairs from the bedroom to the front door is probably safer to negotiate than exit from a flat. You need to make sure it is safe of course and might want to install (optional) emergency lighting but imho it's not necessary. Spend an evening reading HHSRS and you'll find it is all very vague and subjective.

    If you are ever 'ordered' to do something like this then the enquiries you have made so far indicate that you have not been trying to avoid any such responsibility - the council would give you a reasonable timeframe to effect any changes. Don't hold your breath because the likelihood is miniscule imho.

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      #3
      Thank you, I have requested that the Council Landlord Accreditation Scheme include it as an agenda item at their review meeting on 1st October. I am sure that HHSRS is the document that I have downloaded and trawled through, and my interpretation is that its not legislative in respect to existing windows.

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        #4
        from memory, fensa accreditation (and building regs) requires windows from upstairs bedrooms to be of a certain size for means of escape - HOWEVER I am just as sure that whenever windows are replaced, so long as the current openings are not smaller than the ones being replaced then they would comply with the fensa standards and the regs.

        when you got the property did you get a copy of the fensa certificate or was it inspected by building control, who would have approved it.

        in terms of carrying out a fire risk assessment, do you have a mains operated smoke alarm system with a detector at the top of the stairs outside the bedrooms if you do and its maintained and tested (by the occupant) then that is far better than having windows someone could climb through and possibly hurt themselves 'escaping' !!!! do a simple test and make sure you can hear the alarms at each bedhead.

        as an example - fire in downstairs lounge is undetected, eventually occupiers are woken by banging, crashing etc, at that stage the usual means of escape are unusable and so is the landing. the only way out is through the bedroom window that the tenants insisted on having, which just happens to be below the window of the lounge which has blown out due to the heat, the escape through the bedroom window now becomes unusable, however big the window opening is ! with a decent fire alarm system, all occupants are woken as soon as the fire starts, they can use the normal means of escape (stairs) - much safer, fire risk assessment completed !!!

        do the tenants close all doors at night time, do they unplug all appliances? they are perhaps 'mis informed' with regards to the suitability of relying on windows to escape from fire

        ps, I served 32 years in the fire service at a reasonably high level, so I have some experience of fire risk assessments !

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          #5
          Thank you Mister B,

          We installed new smoke detectors in the property but they are battery operated not hard wired. We issue all tenants with a Smoke Alarm and Carbon Monoxide form for them to sign at the start and renewal of each tenancy instructing them to check and maintain the alarms, change batteries etc.
          The property was checked by the Council to ensure sockets, smoke detectors, gas safety and property was free from hazards (amendments to the staircase were made).

          I am going to look into replacing the smoke detectors with mains wired detectors with our electrician as they do sound like the way forward in all our properties.

          Comment


            #6
            I have received the following today from the relevant Council department giving their opinion on the situation

            "With regards to your question regarding your legal obligations to change windows to ‘fire escape windows’. There is no legal obligations for landlords to change windows to ‘fire escape windows’. Unless you were doing a major refurbishment to the property landlords must consider this then.

            If there was a legal obligation to change the windows this would have been pointed out during the accreditation survey.

            Just because the tenant has lost their keys does not mean that the landlord needs to change the windows."

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