Banbury flats blaze is warning to landlords

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Cherwell District Council officials say a fire at flats on Banbury’s Middleton Road is a reminder about the importance of correct fire safety measures.

The council is reminding landlords who rent out houses in multiple occupation (HMOs) that they could be putting tenants at unnecessary risk if they don’t provide fire precautions and keep them up to date.

The fire, which occurred on May 18 in the roof of a three-storey HMO, was brought under control by the efforts of Oxfordshire Fire and Rescue Service and Buckinghamshire Fire and Rescue Service.

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Cllr John Donaldson, Cherwell's lead member for housing, said: “This was a scary incident and might have been worse had the landlord not had the correct safety measures in place.

"Landlords not only have to provide the correct safety measures, like smoke detectors, they need to keep them up to date, as this landlord did.”

Dave Bray, protection manager at Oxfordshire Fire and Rescue Service, said: “Putting out a fire at the top of a three-story terraced building is no easy feat, but luckily our fire crews were able to approach the building from opposite sides to bring the fire quickly under control.

“Because HMOs can have large numbers of occupants, they are subject to extra safety requirements, such as hardwired, linked smoke detectors and protected escape routes, including fire resisting doors.

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"We support Cherwell District Council in making sure these standards are being maintained in local HMOs.”

Oxfordshire Fire and Rescue was assisted by a fire engine and crew from Buckingham Fire Station and a 32-metre turntable ladder and crew from Great Holm Fire Station in Milton Keynes (photo from Buckingham Fire Service)Oxfordshire Fire and Rescue was assisted by a fire engine and crew from Buckingham Fire Station and a 32-metre turntable ladder and crew from Great Holm Fire Station in Milton Keynes (photo from Buckingham Fire Service)
Oxfordshire Fire and Rescue was assisted by a fire engine and crew from Buckingham Fire Station and a 32-metre turntable ladder and crew from Great Holm Fire Station in Milton Keynes (photo from Buckingham Fire Service) | other

Cllr Donaldson added: “Fire doors are one of the most frequent areas of neglect, but they can make the difference between life and death for renters. We will always assist landlords who are trying to do what is right but take the strongest possible measures for those who are not.”

Any HMO in the district with five or more residents needs to be licensed and to follow the fire safety conditions attached to the licence. The council assists landlords to make sure they put the correct measures in place, but can ultimately take enforcement action under the Housing Act 2004 if they fail to do so.

Relevant measures include mains-wired fire alarms, fire retardant front doors, emergency lighting, and risk assessments. HMO licence conditions also cover annual gas safety certificates and keeping electrical appliances in a safe condition.

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If landlords fail to maintain a licenced HMO at the required standard, they may face prosecution or a civil penalty of up to £30,000 per offence.

Both Cherwell District Council and Oxfordshire Fire and Rescue Service recommend that landlords follow the LACORS Fire Safety Guidance.