Our flat could have caught fire

by Readers Question

11:08 AM, 13th September 2013
About 8 years ago

Our flat could have caught fire

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Our flat could have caught fire

My housemate and I attend Greenwich University in London. We live in a two bedroom flat in Charlton, SE7.

During our winter, Easter & Summer breaks we tend to venture back home for some free food and heating, and thus the flat is left empty for a few weeks at a time.

Just before the end of our summer term (2013) we decided to let our Letting Agent know that the cooker had been turning itself off on numerous occasions (more than 5). The cooker would then not work again (heat up) for another hour or so. After a few pestering calls to ask to get it fixed they finally agreed to get a ‘trusted’ handy man in to see what was the problem. We were living back home for the summer on the date they chose to come and fix the problem and so they said they would give their spare set of keys to this trusted handyman, so he could let himself in and out of the flat. We were OK with this as they assured us he was trusted, and most of our possessions had been taken home for the summer anyway; apart from a TV, saucepans and trays, cutlery and crockery and a few tins of beans.

A few weeks past, and my boyfriend and I were due to stay at the flat for one night before our holiday flight at Heathrow the next day. When we got to the flat all looked OK, apart from a pile up of junk mail and a few interesting looking mud marks on the carpet in the hallway (Just to add; myself and my housemate cleaned the flat thoroughly before we left for the summer, so we could come back to a nice clean flat).

As we set about making cups of tea and seeing what was on TV for the night we noticed how hot the flat was. The kitchen was hotter than it would have been with the heating on full blast in the summer! It was then we realised that the cooker had in actual fact been left ON!

Two of the four rings were on as well as the bottom oven and the grill. I opened up the cooker and there were three trays in the cooker which were disintegrating as we stood there. I immediately turned the whole oven off at the switch on the wall next to the cooker (a simple on/off switch to turn the electrics to the oven off or on). Opening all windows and moving the trays out of the oven we also noticed that the rubber which surrounds the oven doors was melting. The sink was also full of ‘dirt’ and dirty plates and a few mugs surrounded the sink. A panel next to the cooker (part of the kitchen units) had also been taken out but not replaced. There was mud all over the kitchen floor walked in from someone’s shoes.

I immediately got on the phone to our lettings agents ‘emergency number’, I called many times that evening – but had no answer. We tried again in the morning before our flight, but no answer either.

When we returned from holiday (having emailed from holiday-but to have no answer) we called again; no answer.

If that cooker was to cause a fire, who would have got the blame?

When we leave the flat for more than a night we photograph that the cooker is switched ‘off’, so we have physical proof on our side if it were to happen again.

How can we get our letting agent to acknowledge what happened/went wrong/what needs to be done to correct this problem? The cooker occasionally switches off still – and we don’t want this mess to come out of our deposit next summer! Furthermore, we had a big electricity bill and we were not even using the flat. We have paid the bill but we feel this is wrong – can we claim compensation and if so how difficult would it be to prove that the bill was as a direct result of this issue? Flat could have caught fire

Thanks for your advice



Mark Alexander

18:35 PM, 14th September 2013
About 8 years ago

Reply to the comment left by "Howard Myers" at "14/09/2013 - 16:16":

Forgive me Howard but I don't see the relevance, Hannah said she lives in a two bed flat, not an HMO or a commercial premises. Am I missing something?

Jay James

18:45 PM, 14th September 2013
About 8 years ago

Reply to the comment left by "Howard Myers" at "14/09/2013 - 16:16":

Hi Howard, why have you gone into so much detail given the detail is not relevant to the situation?

Howard Myers

7:49 AM, 15th September 2013
About 8 years ago

Reply to the comment left by "Mark Alexander" at "14/09/2013 - 18:35":

Well now let's see here; a two bed flat, unless it is a single private household it is an HMO and Hannah is a tennant. The tennant has to be protected. Even if the property is owned by one landord it is the responsibility to enusre the safety (covered by the RRO 2005, Housing Act 2004 and Electrical Regulations) legally.

Put youself ino Hannah's position, would you accept those standards? Would you expect your landlord to avoid those legal responsibilities?

It is not just up to professionals to ensure people are safe. In the 50 years I have been associated with the fire service (uniformed and non-uniformed) in fire prevention and investigations, the fire death rate has significantly dropped. That is because of more and more education in all areas of society. What there is still a need for is, to ensure we don't revert back to the days of the Rachman landlords of the 1960's and 70's.

This is totally relevant.......

Howard Myers

7:58 AM, 15th September 2013
About 8 years ago

My advice (specifically for the electrical cooker) Hannah; is to actually remove the plug from the socket before every time you leave the flat or go to bed until it has been properly repaired or replaced. I know it is tedious but it will provide a safer environment for you.

To answer your original question, it is the owner/landlord/letting agent (the one you actually pay the rent to) who is considered the "Responsible Person" in rented accommodation.

Howard Myers

8:08 AM, 15th September 2013
About 8 years ago

Reply to the comment left by "Jay Jay" at "14/09/2013 - 18:45":

My comments are totally relevant and if you don't understand the legal responsibilities or if you are not a "competent person" it would be advisable to not get involved in a debate on the subject of fire safety.

If you are involved as an owner/landlord/managing agent I would strongly advise you to obtain and thouroughly read the LACORS guide on housing fire safety (guidance on fire safety provisions for certain types of existing housing) and the RRO.

Mark Alexander

11:12 AM, 15th September 2013
About 8 years ago

Reply to the comment left by "Howard Myers" at "15/09/2013 - 07:49":

I think it is very safe to assume that Hannah and her friend are renting a two bed self contained flat. She talks about post piled up behind behind the door, a hallway, a lounge, two bedrooms and a kitchen. That sounds very much like a self contained 2 bed flat to me.

She also describes the cooker as having 4 hobs and an oven. Is such an appliance even allowed to be connected with a 3 pin plug these days? If not, and it has to be hard wired as I suspect it will be, how would she be able to unplug it? Hannah also made it very clear that she switches it off from the fused switch when she leaves the property.

I also have an issue with your statement as follows "To answer your original question, it is the owner/landlord/letting agent (the one you actually pay the rent to) who is considered the “Responsible Person” in rented accommodation." Are you sure? I think it is the responsibility of the owner/landlord, not the agent.

Howard Myers

11:32 AM, 15th September 2013
About 8 years ago

Reply to the comment left by "Mark Alexander" at "15/09/2013 - 11:12":

Extracted from Hannah's initial post: "Just before the end of our summer term (2013) we decided to let our Letting Agent" and that implies the legal responsibility to that Letting Agent who is acting on behalf of an owner/landlord.

However, there should be a contract between the owner/landlord and the Letting Agent specifying all the intricate details and determinations of all the legal requirements and responsibilities.

Unfortunately we are not privvy to the details of that contract....

Hannah does appear to be properly isolating the power (unfortunately we cannot see the acutal cooker installation) and documenting activites. In all undertakings in society today, the CYA (cover your assets) principle is paramount. There are a whole bunch of litigation solicitors waiting to be fed......

lauren field

11:54 AM, 15th September 2013
About 8 years ago

Without wishing to get into a massive debate on HMO in some instances Howard maybe correct BUT in this case it does not appear to be a HMO

Equally if Hannah reported the agent to Trading Standards, Howard is correct, in that there is precedent for the Agent to be held responsible over the landlord

One thing it isn't is Hannah's responsibility. Yet she should equally demonstrate common sense to prevent a further fire as she is now aware of the situation by taking precautions & doing something about the problem. It is not her responsibility to touch the electrics, with the exception of turning it off at the mains

Jay James

15:06 PM, 15th September 2013
About 8 years ago

Dogmatic and borderline personal/aggressive comments are not becoming.
Attempting to set the discourse is indicative of a grossly authoritarian approach.
It smacks of trying to create a professional persona but failing.
It has been said that such approaches are a feature of some public sector related services.
Certainly the above does nothing to increase awareness of positive safety, whereas an absolute focus (ie exclusion of dogma and personal comments) on the issue at hand does contribute to positive safety.

If dogma and analysis are to be rammed at others in a local government 'we are the authority' manner, it is best to make sure one’s analysis is both correct and significant for the situation given all its’ factors.

Otherwise, only ignorance is demonstrated.

(This is a shame because it obscures what could have been very interesting).
Some unsavoury comments on here deter people from taking part in discussions.
To be clear, none of this is a dig at persons above.
Let’s stick to safety issues on this forum.

lauren field

16:59 PM, 16th September 2013
About 8 years ago

Reply to the comment left by "Jay Jay" at "15/09/2013 - 15:06":

Jay Jay

If I have caused offence or come across as dogmatic then I can only apologise as that was not my intention.

The last thing, I am sure any of us want is to prevent you or anyone else from making a comment or getting involved in the discussion.

if I can help make anything clearer or be more helpful, please do let me know.

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