Housing association punished for fire safety failings

Housing association punished for fire safety failings

BEYOND HOUSING, a merger between two other organisations, risked ‘serious detriment’ to tenants through failing to ‘carry out or review’ fire risk assessments (FRAs).

Inside Housing reported on the censure of Beyond Housing by the Regulator of Social Housing (RSH), as it had exposed ‘hundreds’ of residents to danger from fire and had breached the regulator’s Home Standard for tenant protection. The 15,000 home organisation was formed through the merger of Yorkshire Coast Homes (YCH) and Coast & Country Housing, and reported itself to the regulator before the merger due to this issue.

The RSH stated that FRAs for a ‘large number’ of YCH properties had passed review dates, while a handful didn’t have FRAs, with YCH confirming 92 were out of date. The regulator added that ‘the majority of these properties had been overdue for around eight months, but a small number had been overdue for more than a year. The issue affected hundreds of YCH tenants’. In turn, it had concerns over the quality of FRAs, with hazards not fully identified.

There was also ‘limited evidence’ to demonstrate that the necessary actions identified in FRAs, with the issues discovered during the merger process, and extra staff hired to deal with the issue. It added: ‘The regulator concluded that YCH had failed to regularly review its FRAs [fire risk assessments], that it had lacked assurance that the correct risks had been identified, and the relevant actions to manage the identified risks had been completed.’

‘Fire is self-evidently important because of the potentially fatal consequences. In this case, the regulator has concluded that the risk of serious harm was demonstrated because a large number of tenants were potentially exposed to an unknown risk of danger from fire. Therefore the risk of serious detriment has existed.’

So far, 115 of the 143 FRAs have been completed, with the other 28 due for completion before the end of the year. James Hayward, chair of Beyond Housing, said: ‘We take fire safety very seriously and it is disappointing we have found ourselves in this situation. I want to reassure all our customers that Beyond Housing considers their safety, and that of its staff, as its greatest priority.’

Owen Ingram, former acting chief executive of YCH and current acting chief executive of Beyond Housing, added: ‘Whilst this is a serious issue, we acted quickly to ensure the safety and well-being of residents, reported the situation to the regulator and evaluated all areas concerned.’