Majority of tenants say landlords have not discussed fire safety after deadly Grenfell disaster

The vast majority of private landlords in the UK have not been in touch with tenants to discuss fire safety, leaving them feeling left in the dark after the Grenfell tower fire in London which killed at least 80 people.

New research has found that 40% of tenants say there is not a clear fire escape route displayed in their building and only 23% said their landlords has been in touch to discuss fire safety measures.

The research from the British Woodworking Federation (BWF) undertaken to mark Fire Door Safety Week, also found that 55% of tenants do not feel fully prepared regarding what to do in the event of a fire.

Those renting through local authorities are even less likely to have had the reassurance of contact from their landlord with only 10% saying someone had been to discuss safety issues since the deadly fire at Grenfell.

Some 39% say they have seen fire doors propped open, 21% have noticed damage to their building’s fire doors and 18% have reported a fire safety infringement or concern to their landlord but 24% waited weeks for a response.

Overall some 55% say they do not feel fully prepared on what to do in the event of a fire and 24% admitted feeling more nervous/anxious about living in a rented apartment since the tragedy and the issues it exposed with regard to fire safety.

‘This new research shows that landlords and building owners still have a long way to go meet their fire safety responsibilities. It is astounding to learn that in the last three months so little has been done to address the concerns of tenants and residents,’ said Hannah Mansell, spokesperson for Fire Door Safety Week and BWF technical manager.

‘Many people do not realise that the real job of a fire door is to hold back fire, smoke and toxic gases, delaying the spread around a building and keeping the vital means of escape route clear,’ she explained.

‘They only work properly if they are specified, manufactured, installed and maintained correctly, and of course, closed when a fire breaks out. This is especially important in high rise buildings, houses of multiple occupancy and other types of shared sleeping accommodation,’ she pointed out.

She also pointed out that checking fire doors should be part of a regular fire risk assessment which should examine all aspects of fire safety management, including active and passive fire protection measures, signage, means of escape and the specific fire plan procedures.

‘There needs to be clarity about the responsible person and a total transformation of attitude towards fire safety of tenants in rented accommodation. Our focus for Fire Door Safety Week in this pivotal year is to ensure all landlords and tenants have the knowledge and resources they need to stay safe,’ she added.

According to London Fire Commissioner Dany Cotton who oversaw the fire and rescue service’s response at Grenfell Tower, Fire Door Safety Week is an important campaign which drives home the potentially lifesaving role that fire doors play in buildings, especially residential buildings such as tower blocks.

‘It is extremely concerning that the lives of the public and our firefighters are still being put at risk by poorly maintained fire doors and people acting irresponsibly by removing self-closers or by keeping doors wedged open,’ he said.

‘Good fire doors help stop fires from spreading. Fires that spread put more lives at risk and I would urge everyone to check that their fire doors are properly maintained and kept shut. Remember they don’t just protect you, but everybody in the building,’ he added.

Paul Fuller, chief fire officer of Bedfordshire Fire and Rescue Service and chairman of the Fire Sector Federation, explained that proper fire doors save lives, but only if they are correctly made and installed, and certainly not if they are wedged open or in disrepair.

‘Too often our officers walk into a building and see fire doors in an appalling state. We do what we can to advise and enforce the responsibilities of a building owner, but it is time for the responsible person to really step up,’ he said.

Following the Grenfell Tower fire, on 30 August the Government issued new advice for tenants and residents, outlining steps to take regarding building safety including contacting the landlord or building owner with any concerns in the first instance.

If tenants are still concerned and not receiving reassurance, they should contact the relevant local authority or local fire and rescue service for advice.