To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, what steps his Department is taking to enable councils to access flats bought under right to buy in order to undertake compliance checks for fire safety.
Local authorities have strong powers to deal with poor quality, unsafe accommodation and we expect them to use those powers. Under the Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS), local authorities can issue an Improvement Notice or a Hazard Awareness Notice if they find a defect in the property. Failure to comply with an Improvement Notice is a criminal offence for which local authorities can impose a financial penalty of up to £30,000 or prosecute in the courts which have the power to impose an unlimited fine. In extreme circumstances, the local authority may decide to make repairs themselves, or to prohibit that property from being rented out. The HHSRS applies to all residential properties, regardless of who owns them. Leases will normally also provide a landlord with the right to inspect in good faith where there is concern about the maintenance or repair.
The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 places a duty on housing providers to undertake a fire risk assessment of the common parts of their properties and to put in place and maintain adequate fire precautions to manage the risk that lives could be lost in a fire. The Order is enforced by fire and rescue authorities. Failure to comply with the provisions of the Fire Safety Order may to lead to prosecution and potentially a significant fine or custodial sentence.