Kitchen fire doors for two storey HMO’s and LHA requirements?

by Readers Question

13:24 PM, 27th November 2018
About 2 years ago

Kitchen fire doors for two storey HMO’s and LHA requirements?

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Kitchen fire doors for two storey HMO’s and LHA requirements?

There appears to be a conflict relating to the need for a kitchen fire door in two storey HMO’s. The Lacors Housing Fire Safety Guide, click here to download, and The Licensing and Management of Houses in Multiple Occupation and Other Houses (Miscellaneous Provisions) (England) Regulations 2006 Schedule 3 Article 3 (ix) click here to download.

The 2006 Regs relates to HMO’s of all sizes whether licensed or not. Additionally, it does not distinguish between HMO’s let under a single AST or multiple AST (per bedroom (bedsits).

For two storey HMO’s, the subject of this article, Lacors page 41 (Escape routes) states that there is no need for fire doors, assuming a sound construction standard for the primary escape route. For bedsits, however, 30 minute fire doors are required (page 43). So, under Lacors guidance, two storey HMO’s of sound construction let under a single AST would not require fire doors to any room.

However, the 2006 Regs state that an “appropriate” fire door must be fitted to the kitchen. I am aware that the Lacors definition of a fire door (30 min fire door & frame) does not accept a close fitting solid door. However, does the word “appropriate” in the 2006 Regs imply a solid close fitting door would be ok?

There seems to be confusion between LHA’s licensing standards for HMO’s. Some follow Lacors, where a fire risk assessment will identify additional requirements, and others follow the 2006 Regs where some have defined “appropriate” in different ways (some a fire door as defined by Lacors some  a close fitting solid door.

Insisting on kitchen fire doors (30 minute fire door with frame) will subject many landlords to the unnecessary additional cost of installing a kitchen fire door in situations where it adds not safety value at all. Two storey HMO’s will normally have a secondary means of escape (1st floor windows) and many will have kitchens set well back from the primary escape route. In this case I do not feel that a kitchen fire door (30 min fire door with frame) is necessary (assuming kitchen heat detector is fitted).

Has anyone experienced an LHA insisting on a kitchen fire door as required by 2006 Regs where “appropriate” has been interpreted as a 30 minute rated fire door and not a solid close fitting door? If so, have you challenged the LHA’s definition of “appropriate” and if so what was the conclusion?

Did you go to a Rent Tribunal?

Thanks.

Rob

Comments

PJB

15:00 PM, 28th November 2018
About 2 years ago

Reply to the comment left by Sjp at 28/11/2018 - 11:18
We had a similar issue with a council not far away from you concerning an internal staircase and the glass pane that provide natural illumination for safe passage up & down the staircase conflicted with the fire regulations because of the melting point of the glass and so on. By studying the Lacors and the additional clarification documents:
https://www.cieh.org/media/1244/guidance-on-fire-safety-provisions-for-certain-types-of-existing-housing.pdf
and
http://www.westyorksfire.gov.uk/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/LACORS-Fire-Safety-Guidance-Fire-Safety-Provisions-78.08kb-.pdf
we put together the following arguments:
"Paragraph 9.7 (page 12) suggests that in all buildings a fully protected escape route (staircase) offering 30 minutes fire resistance is the ideal solution and it will usually be appropriate for all bedsit-type accommodation. However, in lower risk buildings (i.e. single household occupancy of up to four storeys and low risk shared houses), due to the lower risk and shorter travel distance to the final exit, this need not be insisted upon as long as all the following conditions are met:
• the stairs should lead directly to a final exit without passing through a risk room;
• the staircase enclosure should be of sound, conventional construction throughout the route;
• all risk rooms should be fitted with sound, close-fitting doors of conventional construction (lightweight doors and doors with very thin panels should be avoided); and
• an appropriate system of automatic fire detection and warning is in place (see table C4).
Of particular interest, paragraph 9.8 (page 13) gives an alternative solution is possible in low risk two storey shared houses. Where the first floor is no more than 4.5 metres above ground level, rooms used for sleeping could be provided with access to a suitable escape window from the first floor leading to a place of ultimate safety. In this situation, consideration of the internal escape route is not essential. The option of escape windows will only be acceptable if they meet the requirements of paragraph 14, and, where they do not, the provisions of paragraph 9.7 should be usually applied. If it is necessary to pass through the common escape route to reach the escape window, consideration should be had to the travel distance involved. Where the common escape route is not a protected route, unusually long travel distances may be unacceptable and other fire precautions may be necessary (this will not usually be the case in conventional houses).
The case study D4 (page 41) summarises most of the above points. The safety provisions already present in the property exceed these requirements by some measure."

We had quoted verbatim texts from government sources to argue our case. Although the council didn't like it, they couldn't argue against us.

Rob Crawford

17:59 PM, 28th November 2018
About 2 years ago

Reply to the comment left by Sjp at 28/11/2018 - 09:07
Hi Sjp, unless we are missing something you need to contest this. A potential expense of £10K for reasons that seem to be well beyond that stated in Lacors would suggest to me that you need to pursue the issue through a Private Housing Rent Tribunal see: https://www.gov.uk/private-renting/rent-disputes

Rob Crawford

18:06 PM, 28th November 2018
About 2 years ago

Reply to the comment left by Anne Nixon at 28/11/2018 - 10:42Hi Ann, as for my response to Sjp. Don't simply roll over and commit to spending thousands of pounds to make unnecessary changes. The rent dispute process is not expensive and threatening this action may persuade a change of mind! Use Lacors as your guide. https://www.gov.uk/private-renting/rent-disputes
I am wondering if the ground floor ceiling is below standard, i.e. does not provide adequate fire protection between floors? Did they give a reason for the sprinklers?

Anne Noon

18:47 PM, 28th November 2018
About 2 years ago

Reply to the comment left by Sjp at 28/11/2018 - 09:07
I have had to do this for my HMO. I had to put a wall back between the kitchen and hallway- even though they visited the property in 2002 when I bought it and I told the EHO what I was doing. Including new fire alarms and replacing the closers tenants have removed over the years. Cost me £4000. Only two storey. But I am not required to get a licence , so I think they are being fair.

Anne Nixon

19:19 PM, 28th November 2018
About 2 years ago

Reply to the comment left by Rob Crawford at 28/11/2018 - 18:06Hi Rob,
I have spoken with the 'Residential Property Tribunal' office noted on the bottom of the Prohibition Order form this afternoon as I intend to appeal it.
The reasons for the sprinklers are given as follows:-
* The primary escape route from rooms 3 & 4 ( ground floor rooms with an escape window to the garden) is through two risk rooms, lounge and kitchen so not a protected route.
* The primary escape route for room 6 upstairs is through two risk rooms etc etc
For info, the lounge/kitchen is one large room with an outside door at one end and the ceiling is perfect in no way defective.
The kitchen end of the room is single story with just a pitched roof void above it and the upstairs bedroom is above neither the kitchen nor the lounge.
I am also instructed to provide a fire door at the bottom of the stairs which will make a lobby roughly 2ft9 x 2ft9 even though both rooms which will exit through this tiny lobby already have their own fire doors. The person coming downstairs will have to make a 90 degree turn whilst opening this fire door and the door will open out into the lounge area risking whacking anyone walking past on an every day basis.

Sjp

19:23 PM, 28th November 2018
About 2 years ago

Reply to the comment left by Rob Crawford at 28/11/2018 - 17:59
Hi Rob. They are insisting it’s because they are individual tenants. They said that I do the work, turn it into a single let household by giving them notice and then renting it to a family, reduce it to 4 tenants (so no licence required) or face action. Deadline December 3rd but I’ve asked them to give me more time.

Rob Crawford

19:35 PM, 28th November 2018
About 2 years ago

Reply to the comment left by Sjp at 28/11/2018 - 19:23
Ok, so as per Lacors bottom right of page 43 "Bedsits no more than two storeys". Lacors defines bedrooms let under different AST'S as bedsits the "may" have cooking facilities. So even if the room doesn't have cooking facilities etc. The room may still be considered as needing a 30 min fire door. Also, if your high risk rooms are open planned they need to be isolated from the primary escape route. Escape Windows in bedrooms may negate this need though.

Rob Crawford

19:49 PM, 28th November 2018
About 2 years ago

Reply to the comment left by Anne Nixon at 28/11/2018 - 19:19Hi Ann, from what you have said I think I can now understand the issues that the LHA have. The primary escape route is important. A recent fire just up the road from me prevented a tenant escaping through a front door. Despite escape Windows on the first floor, the tenant would not jump. Suffered smoke inhalation and burns before rescue! You need to be able to isolate high risk rooms, but you have the primary escape route running through it. Hence the sprinkler requirement. Having read your clarification, I'm not sure you'll succeed in a tribunal!

Anne Nixon

19:54 PM, 28th November 2018
About 2 years ago

Reply to the comment left by Rob Crawford at 28/11/2018 - 19:49
Thanks Rob - but these rooms with escape windows are on the ground floor so no jumping. Could these still not be seen as a primary escape route?

Rob Crawford

20:32 PM, 28th November 2018
About 2 years ago

Reply to the comment left by Anne Nixon at 28/11/2018 - 19:54
Hi Anne, you are talking about multiple escape routes through Windows! These would have to comply with Lacors Pg 16 para 14. If you let rooms under individual AST's it would be deemed a higher risk property with bedsits. So my view is that pg 41 does not apply, instead pg 43 case study D7 applies. This does not give Windows as an alternative escape route! It's not clear, you could argue the case but I think the tribunal will air on the side of safety.

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