Any Housing Officer will tell you that keeping communal areas clear of occupants’ personal belongings are an ongoing issue that takes up a lot of their time.
As many of our leased properties are flats in blocks, we ensure that we have an up to date risk assessment on our leased properties. Any home that shares a communal area has to by law have a Fire Risk Assessment (FRA) that is regularly reviewed. These are completed by trained professionals who look at the whole building and advise owners on what measures need to be taken to reduce the likelihood of any fire risk.
Their report could outline that work needs to be completed to reduce any risk by doing something as simple as putting up new signage in a block to show fire escape routes or more structural work may need to be completed e.g. a fire resistant door. They will also recommend whether the occupants should evacuate or stay put should there be a fire.
One thing that is always picked up in FRA’s are ensuring that the communal areas are kept clear at all times. Managing this can be extremely frustrating for Housing Officers!
When an occupant moves into one of our leased flats, it is explained to them the importance of keeping the communal area clear. However we still have instances whereby some occupants will use the communal area as a storage facility. Bikes, children’s toys and household rubbish are the main items.
When we are carrying out our rounds, if items are left in the communal area, we will knock on the door and ask the occupants to remove the items. This also gives us the opportunity to educate them on the reasons behind the need to keep the area clear. Most occupants don’t realise the risk posed by leaving items out i.e. if could impede a fire evacuation; it could be a fire accelerant etc.
If we can’t get an answer, we will ring the client and write them a letter. This letter will also explain that they are breaking the terms of their agreement with us and failure to co-operate could result in further action being taken.
Should further reports be received, we will visit the occupant and look at removing the items and then recharging the occupant. We also would contact Housing Options asking them to assist in getting the occupant to adhere to the rules.
We really don’t want to evict people as this goes against our values, but should we feel that we’ve done everything that we can and the occupant is not complying, it then really leaves us with no other option as they could be causing a fire risk to not just themselves but to their neighbours.
Thankfully, so far we’ve not had to resort to this measure but it has come close on times!