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Life safety systems.

Life safety systems for many landlords and letting agents in the UK are often not inspected properly, as is evidenced by the number of unsafe systems we see weekly, so many small landlords just don’t know their legal responsibilities.

In Peterborough and Cambridge, which is in my catchment area there are a lot of HMOs that seem to be coming up for their EICR, Fire, Emergency Lighting & EET requirements, FIRE is a LIFE SAFETY SYSTEM and as such you are required to have an FRA as detailed in The Regulatory Reform (FIRE SAFETY) order 2005 and its latest amendments.

Unfortunately, when talking to these letting agents and landlords it has become abundantly clear that they believe the prices on search engines are real, and you can get a Qualified Fire inspector, Qualified EET inspector, Qualified Emergency lighting inspector and Qualified Electrical inspector for their properties for £250 inclusive of VAT to carry out all of the above, at the same time?!

I’m not certain what planet or universe they live in, this appears to be governed by that great competent Internet God in the sky, search engines rather than properly competent engineers.

Please stop believing the search engines stop going to companies that do the remedial works on top of inspection this is a conflict of interest to go to companies that specialise in inspection and testing only which means they have no vested interest in increasing codes just to get work, this may seem counterintuitive to many landlords but it is the safest way to ensure that what you get is what is required unfortunately the old proverb of “ Caveat emptor” (buyer beware) has never been more true than in the current economic climate.

Many landlords and letting agents seem to think that they do not need to pay for the engineer to get there or for the cost of parking I’m sorry folks these engineers are being paid by the hour and parking costs can range anywhere from £1 to 12 pounds an hour or more depending on where you’re going, if you know the jobs going to be a lot longer you may be able to get a parking permit this can range anywhere from £40-£139 for the day depending on where you are in the country that coupled with MOT,  van insurance,  wear and tear, servicing,  tyres, congestion charge, et cetera all costs money, it is totally unreasonable to expect any company to absorb these costs you will be paying for it either in the overall cost or the hourly cost no company can afford to give this cost way.

Some companies include this in the rate in which case the cost is higher, some companies have a fixed cost which is low, and then sting you for the remedial cost to make back their losses, some companies charge for the time it takes which can be anywhere between six and eight hours depending on what they find? Or less than an hour on worthless paper, Plus, parking et cetera all plus VAT. Getting angry at companies for 20% of the cost, this cost is imposed by the government not the companies, but I have had many landlords expect me to take it off or give them a discount of 20% so they don’t have to pay it and expect us to absorb it!

A decent competent electrical inspector fully trained to the latest qualifications and holding all the correct certifications will cost the company between £18 and £35 an hour minimum in wages, this will not include the cost of the vehicle the office insurance pensions and everything else necessary to make themselves available for you to call, the more complex systems are likely to cost more because of the degree of knowledge and competence required, and this is just for electrical competency, Fire (Life Safety Systems), Emergency Lighting, EET (PAT) all require further study and competencies.

Small systems can be more time-consuming than much larger systems to inspect and then test, as they are often more abused, and have far more DIY conducted, although many larger systems are starting to show the same trend, due to the enormous amount of unsafe cheap work being conducted.

Many companies go out offering a 10% test so if you have 10 circuits on your fuse board, they are going to test 1 circuit and judging by the paperwork that I see come across my desk all they do is a Zs test,  Many times are written in the wrong column normally coupled with a large number of remedial works, which in many cases do not need to be done, and how would they know they haven’t tested 90% of it anyway?

So many smaller landlords do not sense-check what they are been given, nor do they have the knowledge or the expertise to read the results and understand if they are even real, this is also the case in many large companies. Competent engineers call them toilet paper reports.

Please ensure that you check that the company has the correct insurance and that the engineer being sent has all the correct qualifications and has been doing these types of inspections for more than 5 years minimum, and realise that a competent engineer’s training in all of the above have invested hundreds of hours and thousands of pounds in getting to that level plus has thousands of pounds of test equipment necessary to carry out this work properly.

Many of the prices on the Internet don’t even cover the National living wage after all the operational costs are taken off.

So many letting agents and landlords only see the price they do not see safety or competence and they think they are safe because they have a piece of paper sorry to burst your bubble but if you use an incompetent company that was paid then under law you can still be prosecuted for failure to ensure that the company concerned was competent and engineers used were competent.

As a landlord of an HMO, you are running a business any landlord renting out property is running a business even if it’s only one property and as such you are open to prosecution under the Landlord and Letting act.

You have a duty of care to ensure that there is a fire alarm system in all of your properties whether this is a BS 5839-6 or a BS 5839-1 system depending on the size of your property.

I get so many landlords of smaller properties quoting to me the building act of 2012 to justify why they only have a smoke detector at the top and bottom of the staircase, fire alarm regulations are retroactive you must bring them up to date with the current legislation, not knowing these changes in the law is not an acceptable excuse please speak to competent fire companies who know the current legislation, the cost of getting this wrong alone could end up with you having to sell the property just to pay the fines.

We often find there are ionisation detectors on staircases that are not acceptable anymore, this requirement was superseded a long time ago in domestic properties, and they currently need to comply with BS 5839 -6-2019: A1-2020, which is the latest current regulations.

However, some larger HMOs fall into the requirements of BS 5839 – 1,  you must get a competent FRA (fire risk assessment) carried out to ensure that the type of fire alarm system you have within your property is compliant with the current regulations, non-compliance through lack of understanding is not an acceptable excuse under English LAW since Grenville there have been some major changes in fire alarm legislation so many landlords have now left themselves wide open because of the assumption that the letting agent will advise them or it’s the letting agencies responsibility, “it is not”, it is yours!

if you’re complaining about the price of safety, try having an accident and see how much that costs because once H&S (health and safety executive) gets involved. I believe the current cost is £163 per Hour even a small case can take upwards of two days one day site one day to write it up that’s already costing you potentially £3,260.00 if it requires a month because of all of the failings and they go into it in minute detail you could be facing a bill of £45,640.00 for 28 days work or substantially more, this often involves your insurance being invalidated leaving you with the full costs of the H&S inspection and the full repair costs to the property and fines up to £10 million of personal injury, which is enough to bankrupt most people, especially if you invalidate your insurance using incompetent contractors

Please make sure, that you do your due diligence and ask companies to prove to you that the people are competent to do this work if they have nothing to hide, they can easily forward to you the engineer’s training certificates from City & Guilds or EAL to prove that they have been trained in this competency.

Playing Russian roulette with the safety of your tenants because of price is not an acceptable excuse in law make sure you use competent fully trained engineers to conduct this vitally important life safety work.

A well-laid-out safety plan when conducted properly not only protects you but also protects your tenants, make sure you use a competent company that quotes properly for all the costs involved.

I have even had incompetent people phoning up from sites that we have lost to a price less than half of our cost, asking how to reset fire alarms because they don’t know how, yet they have been sent out by the new cheaper companies to carry out an annual inspection which requires the testing of everything on the site, where they have been instructed by their company, that all they need to test is one call point!

This is a life safety system being allegedly inspected and certified as safe and working properly by people who are incompetent to touch it, and the company authorising it is completely in the dark yet totally culpable under the law, but it was cheap and got their overhead cost down until someone dies.

This type of Lackadaisical approach to the life-saving system is incredulous, and all to save money which I can assure you will never stand up in a court of LAW.

Although I am highlighting fire alarms this type of approach is conducted with electrical, emergency lighting, electrical equipment et cetera all to reduce the cost to unsafe levels, remember standing in front of a judge saying you did it to save money is not acceptable in law as an excuse, period.