Vaddaram v East Lindsey District Council  UKUT 194 (LC) is an Upper Tribunal decision relating to fire safety under the housing health and safety rating system and in particular the use of the LACORS fire safety guidance
The local authority served a prohibition order on the landlord (Mr Vaddaram) in respect of a flat prohibiting it’s use as residential accommodation, the deficiencies being described as:
The property is a one bedroom, first floor flat immediately to the right as you come onto the first floor landing area. When entering the flat you come into the living room. Once in the living room you then go through the kitchen and then into the bedroom at the rear of the flat. This layout is completely unacceptable as the tenant has no chance of escape if a fire were to start within either the kitchen or living room.
The windows to the rear bedroom would not be suitable for escape windows.
The tenant is forced to use portable electric heaters as there is no heating within the flat and this greatly increases the risk of a fire starting.
Various recommendations were listed in order to remedy the deficiencies as well as a further improvement notice.
The landlord appealed both notices to the Residential Property Tribunal who confirmed both notices.
The landlord appealed the prohibition order to the Upper Tribunal, the main ground of appeal was again that there was an adequate fire escape route, via either one of two windows, from the bedroom in the flat. The landlord referred in his grounds of appeal to the National Guidance on Fire Safety in Residential Accommodation that was published by LACORS (Local Authorities Co-ordinators of Regulatory Services) in July 2008, a document that was not considered by the RPT.
Upper Tribunal Decision
On giving permission to appeal, the Upper Tribunal confirmed the use of the LACORS fire safety guidance in such cases:
The LACORS guidance is clearly important and ought to be given great weight in a case such as this. It appears that the guidance was not drawn to the RPT’s attention, and it cannot be criticised for not referring to it. But the council undoubtedly should have drawn the report to the tribunal’s attention …
The guidance considers inner rooms (rooms where an escape is only possible through another room) such as in this case and also escape windows which this flat had.
A combination of the fact that the flat had building regulation approval, a number of changes to the layout had been made, additional fire detection and adequate escape windows, all complying with the fire safety guidance were in place meant that the landlord was successful and the appeal was allowed.
In determining whether the escape window was an acceptable alternative where there is an inner room situation, the Tribunal commented at paragraph 67:
In reaching this conclusion neither the respondent nor the RPT applied the seven criteria that are set out in paragraph 14.2 of LACORS. In my opinion the application of those criteria is a material consideration when deciding whether or not a window is a satisfactory means of escape in an emergency.
This is a useful case which clarifies the position that not only is the statutory guidance to be used as required by section 9 Housing Act 2004 but also the fire safety guidance produced by LACORS (as it was then called, now Local Government Regulation) should be used where the hazard being assessed is that of fire.