Journalist, Cherry Park

Author Bio ▼

Cherry Park is an experienced freelance journalist and reporter who specializes in features, news, and news analysis, in print and online. She has written extensively in the areas of health and safety, fire safety, employment, HR, recruitment, rewards, pay and benefits, market research, environment, and metallurgy, and she also conducts research.
July 9, 2014

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Growing ‘Beds in Sheds’ Problem Poses Huge Fire Risk, Says LFB

House boatOld barges, former warehouses, garages, industrial units, storerooms, outbuildings, sheds and factories – just some of the buildings increasingly housing migrant workers and other vulnerable people.

London Fire Brigade (LFB) has spoken out again about the fire dangers from such illegal, substandard accommodation.

Over the last five years 438 fires in the capital involved properties that should not have been used as places to live, resulting in 13 fire deaths and 69 serious injuries, according to LFB statistics.

Since 2009 the brigade has taken more than 200 formal enforcement actions against landlords under fire safety law where officers found people living in unsafe conditions.

A lack of built-in fire safety precautions such as smoke alarms and fire doors, together with the prevalence of riskier ways of cooking, heating and lighting, mean beds in sheds are potentially lethal fire traps.

London Fire Brigade has launched the UK’s first ‘unsuitable housing’ toolkit, which aims to help those working with communities to identify unsuitable accommodation and vulnerable residents.

LFB’s third officer, Dave Brown, said: ‘It’s a tragedy that in this day and age we’ve got people living in factories, sheds and outbuildings in scenes reminiscent of a Charles Dickens novel.

“Starting with our own staff, we are working to educate those who come into contact with unsuitable accommodation and those who live in it to try and prevent further beds in sheds fire tragedies.”

Airbnb

The hotel and B&B industry, becoming increasingly threatened by the exponential expansion of spare room website Airbnb, has flagged up the potential fire risks in airbnb properties, which are usually rooms in private homes, or entire flats or houses, rented online for short periods of time by private individuals.

The Silicon Valley startup, founded in 2008, has created thousands of new places to stay in cities across the world and is now moving away from its original premise and attracting semi-professional landlords into the business. In London alone, there are now 13,000 Airbnb listings, 6,000 of which are entire homes, making it an increasing competitor to the hotel industry.

In an attempt to hit back, the British Hospitality Association (BHA) has raised questions about fire, health and safety and property regulations. The BHA told The Guardian:

“We are very concerned that large numbers of private homes are being let on a semi or even permanent basis to tourists, because it’s unlikely that any of these properties have ever had any fire risk or health and safety checks.

“Seventy-six percent of fire deaths in the UK last year were in the home and if you have strangers staying there who aren’t familiar with how things work, the risks could increase.”

An Airbnb spokesperson defended the site, saying: “We require all of our hosts to follow the rules in any lease agreements they might have and relevant local regulations. The situation in London regarding planning laws has been frankly confusing with an antiquated law from the 1970s.”

The site gives pointers to hosts on fire prevention on its website as part of its ‘responsible hosting’ advice.

 

 

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