Four people in Kirklees, West Yorkshire, received warrants, by the request of Kirklees Council, to enforce access to their homes in order to carry out fire safety work – will other local councils soon follow suit?
Kirklees Council has taken legal action against three of its tenants and one private leaseholder living in flats on Brooklyn Road in Cleckheaton in order to complete repairs to smoke detectors.
This comes a year after the council issued a warning when housing staff revealed they were trialling whether they could file injunctions to force people to let them into their properties to carry out fire safety improvements.
Risks to life from fire, smoke and carbon monoxide are well known, with building regulations requiring that all properties build after 1st June 1992 must have a hard-wired smoke alarm installed on every floor.
More than 50 residents across the three blocks of flats were contacted to gain access to properties in order to carry out repairs. While the majority were happy to provide access, four individuals failed to engage with council staff, placing them at risk in the event of fire.
There are currently 1,070 leaseholders in low-rise blocks across the borough, if any households deny access the council has no statutory powers to force them to cooperate.
In November 2021, the council said it was investigating the next step, which could involve applying for an order from a judge under the Environmental Protection Act.
The council is currently in the midst of a £90m fire improvement plan, following an independent review into safety compliance. The review highlighted “significant risk” around asbestos safety and water hygiene, with fire safety flagged as the “primary risk” facing authority.
Cabinet Member for Housing and Democracy, Cathy Scott, says: “Keeping our tenants safe is our number one priority, which is why we have committed £90 million to making these essential improvements.
“While the majority of tenants share our commitment to upgrading the safety of our homes, we need all tenants to play their part.
“I am pleased to see that necessary legal action was taken in this case. It is always a last resort but in this case was necessary to ensure everyone in the building remains safe.”
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