13:09 PM, 7th October 2022, About A year ago 17
A council that breached the Home Standard after it was found to have 3,000 fire doors overdue for replacement has not been fined by the sector’s regulator.
The English regulator’s latest judgements reveal that the London Borough of Redbridge Council also had 2,000 properties with no electrical installation condition report (EICR).
If a private landlord had made the same mistake, says Phil Turtle, the compliance director at Landlord Licensing & Defence, they would have been hit with a £76million fine.
Mr Turtle said: “Oh, how different things are when the boot is on the other foot.
“On a daily basis, we see HMO landlords hit by councils such as Redbridge, and indeed most councils now, with fines of £28,000 or so under Regulation 4 of the HMO Management Regulations for four or five doors that are not decent fire doors.
“Or for fire alarm systems that don’t have enough units under the latest guidance – even though they meet the legal requirement set out in the Smoke Alarm Regulations.
“Sometimes occupants are in mortal danger. Mostly they are not from the properties we inspect.”
He added: “Yet here is one of those same councils that drop on private landlords as heavily as a tyrannosaurus dropped from space – and what commensurate enforcement does the giant corporate get for ‘forgetting’ to install 3,000 fire doors?
“They are putting the occupants of 2,000 rental properties, that could be up to 4,000 people, in mortal danger.
“The Regulator of Social Housing said it would not take statutory action at this stage because it had assurances that the situation was being remedied.”
Mr Turtle continued: “So, whereas private landlords would have been threatened, bullied and fined in aggregate £56 million for the same number of properties. Redbridge council is fined £zero.
“How on earth are these people trusted to police private sector housing when they are allowed to get away with such risk to life with nothing more than a slapped wrist?
“And that’s without counting the 2,000 properties without electrical safety certificates.
“That would be £20 million to private landlords. But to you, as you’re a council, it is £zero. And just do the work when you can get round to it.”
The formal report from the Regulator of Social Housing (RSH) found that the north-east London borough did not have an ‘effective system’ in place to meet its health and safety responsibilities, a breach it said carried the potential for ‘serious detriment’ to its tenants.
In its detailed report into Redbridge Council, the RSH found issues relating to electricity, water, asbestos and fire safety.
In addition to the overdue replacement of fire doors, the report revealed that the local authority was unable to report on the risk profile of its current doors, and how long replacements had been overdue.
The council also did not know when its new fire doors would be installed.
On electrical safety, Redbridge reported that almost 200 communal areas and 2,000 domestic properties in its portfolio did not have a current electrical condition report.
Across the council’s properties, there were also 450 communal areas where Redbridge had not assessed if asbestos surveys were required.
According to the regulator, without up-to-date surveys, the council could not be sure that tenants were not being exposed to asbestos.
Similarly, the report highlighted that water safety risk assessments were missing on more than 160 residential blocks.
The regulator said: “Taking into account the seriousness of the issues, the duration for which tenants were exposed to risk, and the number of tenants potentially affected, the regulator has concluded that LB Redbridge has breached the Home Standard and that there was a risk of serious detriment to tenants during this period.”
Redbridge has since started to put a programme in place to rectify the failures and has ‘assured the regulator that it is taking action to remedy the breach of standard’.
The RSH said it would not take statutory action at this stage because it had assurances that the situation was being remedied.
Claire Symonds, the chief executive of Redbridge Council, said: “Redbridge Council has designed and implemented a programme of works to rectify those issues identified, and has rapidly made progress since June.
“The Regulator will continue to monitor our progress until we achieve compliance.
“We apologise for any concern this situation might cause to our residents and want to provide reassurance that we have acted swiftly to put things right.”
Mr Turtle said: “Let’s remember that the ‘situation’ Ms Symonds mentions is MORTAL DANGER and says she has acted swiftly to put things right which, according to the RHS, the council also did not know when new doors would be installed.
“The disparity in the persecution of private landlords and the ‘ah-well’ attitude of councils to their own misdemeanours which are multiple magnitudes of order more serious has got to stop.
“Private landlords are treated by these councils as common criminals and often hounded out of business altogether.”
He added: “Why is it that these councils can avoid the same persecution and punishment?
“Something, somewhere is more than a little corrupt!”
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