LACORS Fire Safety Guidance
LACORS is the body which co-ordinates local authority regulators. With the approval of Communities and Local Government, as well as the Association of Chief Fire Officers, LACORS has published Guidance on fire safety in residential accommodation, including single dwellings, shared houses, bedsits, flats and flats which are in multiple occupation. To see the Guidance click here. The Guidance applies to existing residential accommodation i.e. properties which were not built or converted in line with 1991 (or later) building regulations. For information about building regulations click here.
Different legislation applies to different types of residential accommodation. For detailed information about which particular legislation applies to which property, click here. Depending on the type of property it may be subject to the Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS), the Fire Safety Order, or HMO licensing. Obviously, this can be very confusing. The purpose of the LACORS Guidance is to provide a common set of Guidance for each type of property, (irrespective of which legislation applies, whether it is a single dwelling, a shared house, a bedsit or a flat.
As its name suggests, the LACORS Guidance is just that. It is guidance. It is not a prescriptive set of standards which must always be complied with because it acknowledges that other fire safety solutions may be just as good. The Guidance is risk based. However, the intention is that, if you act in accordance with the Guidance, then irrespective of whichever legislation may apply to the particular type of property, you should still meet a satisfactory standard of fire safety in that property. In this way you will then comply with the applicable legislation. This is particularly important for those properties which are subject to the Fire Safety Order, such as flats and bedsits.
There may also be local guidance which explains the LACORS Guidance or deals with particular local situations. You should, therefore, check with your local housing authority/local fire and rescue authority to see if there is any such local guidance as it should be published on their websites.
LACORS Guidance contains case studies for single dwellings, shared houses, bedsits, flats and flats which are multiply-occupied. These are shown according to the number of storeys in each property. When using the LACORS Guidance please note that a basement/cellar is not treated as a storey (unlike for HMO licensing purposes). These case studies are in Part D of the LACORS Guidance. However, it is very important that you read these case studies in conjunction with the relevant parts of Part C of the Guidance. This gives much more detailed information (e.g. regarding means of escape, automatic fire detection, lighting and so on). It also contains detailed guidance about maintenance and testing of installations such as fire detection systems.
Part B of the Guidance explains how to do a fire risk assessment. To see the LACORS Guidance in full click here. LACORS have now issued clarification of certain matters dealt with in the Guidance. The Guidance needs to be read in the light of this clarification document. To see the clarification click here.
One of the problems for fire safety in residential accommodation is that there is an overlap because there are often two enforcing authorities, the local housing authority and the local fire and rescue service. Appendix 2 contains a protocol which has now been signed up to by many local councils and fire brigades setting out who would act as lead enforcement authority. What this means is that normally the local council will take the lead role in enforcing fire safety in single dwellings, shared houses, bedsits, flats and flats which are multipli-occupied. The local fire brigade will deal with buildings which have a mixed commercial/residential use, hostels, hotels, guest houses etc.