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Action by tenants

This content applies to England & Wales

How tenants may be able to take action on fire safety when the local authority does not take prompt and effective action.

Much legislation outlined in this section relies on local authorities taking prompt and effective action, and closely monitoring the situation. Under other legislation tenants in any type of rented accommodation can take action themselves.

Environmental Protection Act 1990

The Environmental Protection Act 1990 gives tenants the power to take action if there is a statutory nuisance present, for example, possibly dangerous electrical wiring or piles of rubbish obstructing the means of escape. If the landlord will not remedy the nuisance the tenant can issue a summons in the magistrates' court.[1] (See the section on the Environmental Protection Act for a detailed explanation of statutory nuisance, abatement procedures and action by tenants and other occupiers.)

Landlord and Tenant Act 1985

Most tenants have rights under section 11 of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985. In a house in multiple occupation this would cover repairs to fire precautions such as ill-fitting fire doors, self-closers (the mechanisms which make doors close automatically), and windows that do not open. The landlord does not have to do these repairs until notified of them (see the section Contractual rights including section 11).

Defective Premises Act 1972

Tenants whose homes were converted into bedsits or flats after 1 January 1974 may be able to take action under the Defective Premises Act 1972 if the conversion did not take fire safety into account.[2] This course of action is probably not available to licensees.

Damages

Tenants can seek damages in the county court and the court might order the landlord to carry out works if the poor conversion work gives rise to a continued risk of fire (see the section on Liability for disrepair).

Duty of care

Landlords generally have a duty of care to all visitors using the common parts of a house in multiple occupation, for example halls, stairs, and bathrooms.[3] This gives tenants the opportunity to take legal action after an accident has occurred. See the Courts and legal action section for more information on taking a case to court.

Anyone injured in a fire or whose property is damaged may be able to take legal action under the common law duty of care (see the section on liability for disrepair). Action could be against the landlord if disrepair causes a fire or the landlord is responsible for negligent workmanship causing a fire. Action could also be taken against builders or anyone directly responsible for negligent work.

[1] s.82 Environmental Protection Act 1990.

[2] s.1 Defective Premises Act 1972.

[3] s.2 Occupiers Liability Act 1957.

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