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Public enquiry on Grenfell Tower opens

Thursday 14 September 2017

On 14 June, a fridge freezer started a fire on the fourth floor of Grenfell Tower in North Kensington. It spread fast up the outside of the 24 storey building, and claimed more than 80 lives.

Today a public enquiry will begin to look at the cause and spread of the fire, fire-safety regulations for tower blocks, the actions of the local authority in the lead-up to the fire - and the response of the London Fire Brigade. It will be led by retired judge Sir Martin Moore-Bick, and an interim report is expected by Easter.

Shah Aghlani, who lost his mother and aunt in the fire, will be amongst the survivors and victims listening to Sir Martin’s opening statement today. He said: “We’re desperately seeking a beginning of an end. And hopefully this inquiry would start the beginning of an end.”

Since the fire, tower blocks with similar cladding have failed new fire tests, and councils across the UK are looking at access, exits and fire-safety systems and procedures.

More than half of landlords have taken measures to check fire safety in their buy-to-let properties in the wake of the fire.
A Simple Landlords Insurance survey of 500 private landlords found that a third (32%) had checked their fire alarms, and 15% had instructed a professional to carry out a fire risk assessment.

Other measures taken by landlords included checking construction materials and contacting the freeholder regarding fire safety checks. 17% of landlords also said that they had installed a carbon monoxide alarm.

“Fire safety is clearly at the top of the agenda for many landlords,” says Andy Wynne-Jones, Simple’s Senior Underwriting Manager. “And today’s statement is a stark reminder about just how important it is to get fire safety right.

“Landlords all need to be doing as much as possible to protect their tenants - not just the bare minimum of existing regulations. And it it will be interesting to see how those regulations change as this investigation continues.

“In the last five years at Simple we’ve only seen 62 claims for electrical fires,” continues Andy Wynne-Jones. “This isn’t a common occurrence - but it is a devastating one when it happens in any property.

“Often landlords will be doing everything right - but it’s when something unexpected happens that things go wrong. So if your boiler breaks down and you take round an electric heater so your tenants don’t freeze - that might not meet safety standards. It might also not be covered by your insurance policy.

“Landlords have to stay vigilant, inspect to make sure tenants are following fire-safety rules - and keep an eye on changing rules and regulations.”

Take a look at Simple’s guide to fire safety here.

Get top tips about fire safety from Simple’s expert blogger Carl Agar.

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