Keeping communal areas in blocks of flats clear of clutter can help prevent fire and save lives/prevent extensive damage

Housing service highlights importance of tenants keeping communal hallways clear

Following a fire in the communal area of a block of flats owned by East Devon District Council in Honiton, the council is keen to highlight once again how important it is that tenants keep the hallways clear of clutter in the buildings where they live.

The recent fire, which was caused by a mattress being set alight in a hallway, is a chilling reminder of how dangerous it is to store items in communal areas.  The council is now working with police and the fire service, who attended the incident, to clarify the circumstances.

In addition to educating tenants on the importance of upholding its clear hallways policy, East Devon is also implementing a number of other measures to improve fire safety. These steps include improving bin store facilities and buggy storage areas, updating emergency lighting and upgrading residents’ front doors and communal doors to improve fire retention.

Amy Gilbert, Property and Asset Management Manager at East Devon, said:

The fire could have caused fatalities, but on this occasion, fortunately, no one lost their life or was injured. However, the fire was entirely preventable, as we have a very clear policy for the communal areas of our blocks of flats. All our tenants have been informed of this policy and have been given instructions to follow, yet on this occasion a resident totally disregarded our advice and dumped a mattress in the hallway, where it was set on fire. There are even signs in all the communal areas to reinforce the ‘keep hallways clear of clutter’ message.

 “We will always try to establish the identity of anyone leaving property in a hallway and will leave a postcard at their address, explaining the risk and asking them to remove the item. If necessary we will take away the item ourselves and then bill the tenant for the cost. We want our residents to understand that that they have a duty to keep hallways clear, not just in the interests of their own safety, but also their fellow residents.

Councillor Jill Elson, portfolio holder for sustainable homes and communities, said:

Keeping hallways clear is important, not just to prevent fires, but also to ensure that everyone can escape from a building safely in the event of an emergency. People put all kinds of things in hallways – from mobility scooters and prams to rubbish and tables. All these items can obstruct or can contribute to a fire, which is why we take firm action against anyone storing or dumping anything in a communal area.