Worcester city councillors are attempting to change the law in order to make it mandatory for sprinklers to be fitted in Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs).
Councillor Matthew Lamb proposed the motion at the Guildhall in an attempt to get the city authority to contact Secretary of State for Housing Communities and Local Government, Bromsgrove MP Sajid Javid, in order to get the law changed. The motion was seconded by Councillor Lamb’s fellow St John Labour councilor Richard Udall. The motion was passed unanimously.
The reasoning behind the change is that the most dangerous place to live in terms of a potential death by fire is a HMO. There has been a significant growth in properties of this type in Worcester, provoking two city councilors to attempt to get the law changed and apply for sprinklers to be fitted in such properties.
One of the issues with the motion raised by landlords was the fact that making changes may be costly. However, Councillor Lamb argued that it was not prohibitively expensive to fit sprinklers.
Councillor Lamb explained: ‘You are most likely to die in a fire in an HMO- you are 19 times more likely to die in one than in another type of property. HMOs generally have what’s called ‘passive’ fire protection – fire doors and smoke alarms and emergency lighting. But most deaths in fires take place in the room where it started, and passive protection doesn’t help with that. If a fire starts in one bedroom in an HMO, the passive measures might stop it spreading and allow people to evacuate, but it doesn’t help anyone in the room of origin of the fire. Sprinklers don’t cost any more than passive measures – and it’s a fact that nobody in the country has died in a fire where a properly installed sprinkler system is used.’
He continued: ‘We looked at using planning laws to do this and make owners of HMOs install sprinklers, but it needs a change made by central government, either a change in the law or a decision by the Secretary of State.’