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Landlords 'risking lives of tenants with lack of smoke alarms'

Published 28/03/2016

A fifth of rented homes do not have smoke alarms, according to the figures
A fifth of rented homes do not have smoke alarms, according to the figures

"Unscrupulous" landlords are putting lives at risk, it has been warned after figures showed a fifth of privately rented homes have no smoke alarms.

The most recent figures from the English Housing Survey revealed that while 88% of households in 2014/2015 had at least one working smoke alarm, which cost as little as £4, only 81% of private renters did.

In the past decade the proportion of households with a working smoke alarm increased among owner occupiers, from 83% to 88%, and local authority tenants, from 80% to 92%, but private rented homes did not see a rise, the official figures show.

New laws came in from October 2015 requiring private landlords to fit smoke alarms on each floor of their rental properties or face a £5,000 fine.

But fire chiefs are concerned some landlords are still not taking the step to fit the devices.

London Fire Brigade said there had been slow take-up in the capital of free fire alarms offered by the Government through fire and rescue services to target landlords in areas most at risk from fire.

The fire service said it had opened its offer up to private tenants in a bid to save lives.

It warned people are four times more likely to die in a fire in the home if there is no smoke alarm.

And some of the capital's most at-risk residents, such as the elderly and those with mobility and mental health issues - especially those who are smokers - lived in privately rented accommodation.

London Fire Brigade's Dave Brown, director of operations, said: "Unfortunately the private rented sector is an area where some of the capital's more unscrupulous landlords operate and fire safety is not always top of their agenda.

"The properties they rent often don't contain vital safety features like fire doors and smoke alarms, and this can put lives at serious risk if a fire breaks out.

"Despite offering private landlords in London's most at risk areas free smoke alarms, very few have come forward to take us up on the offer."

He urged tenants whose landlords had not provided them with alarms to apply to the brigade to see if they were eligible for the devices.

Dave Green, national officer of the Fire Brigades Union, said: "It is absolutely vital that every single home in the UK has a fire alarm fitted.

"We know that a fifth of all private renters don't have a smoke alarm, which means their risk of dying in a fire is far higher than those who are protected in this way."

He added: "They are cheap to buy and easy to install, and there simply isn't any excuse for any household in the UK not to have one."

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