Punch Taverns was previously ordered to pay over £27,000 in fines and costs for serious breaches of fire safety regulations even though the judge commented on Punch’s excellent safety record and said that their current compliance systems are “impressive”.  So how did the company end up with a fine?

The Milestone Public House was a tenanted outlet at the time when the fire brigade issued an enforcement notice to the tenant covering breaches of the fire safety legislation including inadequate maintenance of fire alarms and emergency lighting.  An enforcement notice requires defects to be remedied by a certain date.  The tenant told Punch he would carry out the necessary works.  However, when the tenancy came to an end the works hadn’t been done, the deadline under the notice expired and Punch was left with the bill.  This was because when a tenant leaves, the premises return to the landlord’s control and the landlord therefore has responsibilities under fire safety legislation.

The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 places a duty on the “Responsible Person” to protect his employees and anyone else lawfully on his premises – e.g. customers or deliverymen.  The Responsible Person is obliged to carry out various tasks such a risk assessment, produce policies and procedures to minimise risk of fire, provide staff training and provide a means of escape and necessary equipment including fire/smoke alarms and extinguishers.

Who is the Responsible Person?
The Responsible Person is the employer where the premises are under his control. In a managed house situation the employer/operator will be the Responsible Person although it is possible to appoint a Competent Person on site to assist in complying with the obligations.

In a tenanted outlet the tenant, as employer, will be the Responsible Person (even if there are no members of staff) because the premises are under his control for the purpose of running his business.  However, when premises are empty the definition is wide enough to impose duties on the landlord as the owner. So during any voids it is the landlord’s obligation to ensure that fire safety legislation is complied with.

For further details on your obligations under fire safety legislation see Freeths’ guide to fire safety here

The content of this page is a summary of the law in force at the present time and is not exhaustive, nor does it contain definitive advice. Specialist legal advice should be sought in relation to any queries that may arise.