The country is still reeling from the shock of the appliance caused Grenfell Tower fire with the loss of at least 80 lives in the tragedy, and many questions will still need to be answered.
So desperate are the landlords for some kind of closure, they have stated there will be no consequences if tenants who had sub-let the flats will disclose the names and numbers who had been living in the tower at the time of the tragedy. It will be a long time until all those that need housing are housed, and even longer before the horror and trauma recede for those who witnessed it first-hand.
There were structural issues with the cladding on the exterior building, which meant when a fire started it was not contained within a single apartment but spread throughout Grenfell Tower. The fire originally started when a refrigerator caught fire. The fact this turned into a huge catastrophe for the unfortunate residents has prompted immediate action, as other blocks at risk from the same cladding type are evacuated, with plans to replace the faulty cladding with a safer and more effective material. It is to be hoped that these actions will ensure such a terrible calamity does not happen again. But surely, there are implications for all landlords, including private sector landlords.
Until one hears about an appliance catching fire, it seems unfortunate but a rarity. It is not and this episode may have effect on the appliances a landlord is prepared to provide for their tenants. If the landlord provides washing machines, cookers, fridge-freezers, they need to be prepared to maintain them in good working order, to replace them if they break-down, and perhaps in future, to commit to do an annual safety check. There will then be a cost to the landlord and issues of access with the tenants. Will there be insurance implications if a fire is caused by an appliance the landlord has provided? If a landlord decides it will be easier not to provide himself, who would blame them?
However, because these are essential items, the tenant will need them, and if the landlord doesn’t provide them, the tenant will. If appliances bought brand new are not risk free, what of those who purchase re-conditioned models? How much greater would be the risk then? Could a tenant be persuaded to have annual safety checks undertaken on appliances they have obtained? Tenants would not neglect this obvious safety measure to spite the landlord, but for many tenants, who live at the margins, there is little spare cash to afford whatever the cost of an annual check. What are the insurance implications for this situation? Will landlords face higher premiums because the risk could be seen to be greater if a tenant has provided his own kitchen appliances?
Private sector landlords will have some difficult decisions to make. The fact that a fire in one of their properties will probably not result in the horrendous loss of life seen at Grenfell Tower does not eradicate nor minimise the chance of a fatality in their properties. No landlord wants a fire, or even worse, a death in their property. There may be no way of completely eradicating the possibility of a blaze, but knowing what the risks are and putting in place procedures and precautions to eliminate risks, may avoid some, if not all, of the dangers of appliance caused fires.
For advice on buy to let issues – Ask Sharon