Company’s cladding ‘lies’ sees prosecution for fire safety breaches

A property management company and its director have been found guilty of breaching fire safety rules at properties in Ipswich after providing “inaccurate information” to the fire risk assessor.

As reported by Suffolk County Council, Suffolk Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS) brought a prosecution against Home from Home Property Management Ltd and its director Edward Ottley regarding properties at 2-100 Wolsey Street.

Aluminium composite material (ACM), similar to that used to refurbish the Grenfell Tower prior to the tragic fire, was first identified at the premises in July 2017. It is understood that while a fire risk assessment had been carried out at the building, it “did not take into account the high fire risk posed to the residents by the cladding”.

As the council explains: “It was established that Home from Home had commissioned a fire risk assessor but had given inaccurate information in connection with the level of risk.

When it became apparent, the risk assessor invalidated the fire risk assessment they had produced.”

A visit by SFRS officers in 2019 revealed that the fire risk assessment was out of date and had not been reviewed, “as required by the legislation”. Other breaches of fire safety relating to the means of escape were also identified.

The company commissioned a new fire risk assessor in August 2021, who “corroborated the findings of SFRS in respect of the ongoing risk to residents”. Since then, work has been carried out to ensure there is “no longer a significant risk to life”, and Home from Home is seeking government funding to support the removal of cladding at the premises.

A spokesperson for SFRS said: “The actions by Home from Home regarding the existence of the cladding has prolonged the potential risk of harm to residents had a fire occurred.

This is a clear message to all managing agents that fire safety is important, and as an enforcing authority Suffolk Fire and Rescue Service will not hesitate in prosecuting where lives are placed at risk.

The verdict follows a two-week trial, where both the property and management company and its director were found guilty of eight offences of non-compliance with the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005.

As reported by the Ipswich Star, testimony, from the fire risk assessor stated that a representative of Home from Home had “lied” about the flammability of the cladding. Test results from the Building Research Establishment in July 2017 had confirmed that the cladding was a “category three failure”, and a “significant fire hazard”. However, this information was not passed on to the fire risk assessor when they were contracted to assess the building in December 2017.

As reported by BBC News, sentencing is expected to take place at Ipswich Crown Court in July.

 

(Photograph by Suffolk Fire and Rescue Service)