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Fire risk, Items to be removed from under Stairs

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Fire safety legislation is functional and does not go into specific prescriptive detail so you won't find anything specific in the legislation on storage in cupboards (although it could be seen to breach functional standards in 4(1)(a) & (c) of the regulations.)

A Henry will burn and produce a lot of fire effluent if exposed to sufficient external flame, possibly if your fuseboards are old and in a combustible (plastic) housing, this could be seen as a suitable pilot flame source.

Private property or not you are leaseholders, not freeholders, so be aware there may be sufficient lease clauses to empower the freeholder and their agent in their actions, also the Housing Act applies across the whole building and can be resorted to for enforcement if there is a genuine risk.

Zero tolerance is preferred for management companies as easy to implement & monitor, so many use this rather than a more sympathetic risk based managed approach (which can be completely fine & compliant).

Having said all that the legislation is risk based and so whilst a fuse cupboard should always be empty in an ideal world there are certain combinations of items that could be deemed low risk. You could also argue if the cupboards are now suitably fire proofed and smoke sealed they would contain a fire (if a small cupboard it might even contain it long enough to go out through lack of oxygen)

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  • 3 months later...

Good afternoon all,

I came across this form on a google search following a notice from our property manger to remove a baby's push chair from beneath a stairwell. I would normally instantly comply with such a notice but the issue is that our apartment is on the first floor, there is a lift provided but this is at the top of a half flight of steps (I know, kind of pointless lift) also I would like to point out that the it is only the push chair frame of the push chair that is left beneath the stairwell as the seat and baby are carried up the stairs. The issue is returning to bring the frame up would result in the child being left alone upstairs. Also carrying the frame up the stairs is difficult for the mother of the child particularly when on her own. The building was purpose built (not a conversion) in the mid 90s and contains 5 no. flats, 2 on the GF, 2 on the 1st floor and 1 in the roof space on the 2nd floor.

When entering the front door (not a level threshold) there is a straight flight of stairs (no half landing) to the left and a corridor straight ahead that runs along side the stairs extending to door which leads to the lift and front doors to the GF flats (picture attached). The frame of the push chair is normally stored beneath the stairs, this is not an enclosed space and the post boxes are also fixed to the wall beneath the stairs.

I would imagine that the notice has been issued as the storage violates two things - first storage of materials (possibly combustible) in the fire route and the second a potential of blocking a fire route from the GF apartments.

I would like to argue that firstly the frame is not combustible or has a low risk of combustion (rubber wheels?) and second that if there is a way of ensuring the push chair does not encroach into the escape route then there is little risk. I believe this can be done by installing a low level rail/barrier beneath the stairs dividing the area used for storage from the escape route? Is there any argument that can be made to update the risk assessment thus allowing the push chair to be stored beneath the stairs? Or any documents or route that could be used to argue this?

I look forward to your response.



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Your agent is applying the 'zero tolerance' approach detailed in Government fire safety guidance as it is the easiest to implement and leaves no ambiguity as to what can be placed in the common areas.

However the guidance does offer an alternative which is ‘managed use’. This approach allows strictly defined use of common parts and limits the items allowed, to control fire load and ease of ignition. It includes strict conditions on where such items can be kept. For example, a ‘managed use’ policy might permit residents to:
• place pot plants and door mats outside their front doors
• have framed pictures and notice boards on walls
• store bicycles, prams and mobility scooters in places that are out of the way and not likely to cause obstruction.

It's not popular with agents as it requires a lot more hands on management and a bigger liability risk, but I have assessed premises where it has been effective due to the residents being proactive in monitoring compliance themselves.


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  • 2 weeks later...
Guest Paul B


We are the only flat on the 2nd floor of a church conversion. The others are ground and first floor. The staircase from 1st to 2nd is obviously only used by us and I have placed a coat stand outside our front door. This is possible because the landing is wide and I positioned the stand off to the side where it does not in anyway interfere with the stairwell or access to it. 

So to sum up, no other residents see it, the staircase serves only our flat, and the coat stand and coats do not in anyway block access to the stairwell. We have been asked to remove it for "health and safety" reasons. Is this fair?

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It might not be used bu anyone else, but it is not your stair to use, it belongs to the freeholder or TMC so they are in their right to ask you to remove it even if there were no H&S reasons.

As per my previous answer the management have clearly adopted the zero tolerance approach so unless a case can be made for managed use and more importantly the agent be persuaded to adopt it then you are stuck.

Also even if they do not obstruct they will burn and the principle of communal circulation areas in flats is that they do not contain anything that can burn.

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  • 1 month later...



I live in a 2 storey building with 9 shared ownership flats the landlord being Ealing Council. On the ground floor  there is a space under the stairs which some of the owners/tenants use as a storage space for pushchairs and bicycles. we recently received a notice that we need to clear the space as it represents a fire hazard. As it stands, the stairs are built from concrete with metal railings, the fire escape route is clearly identified on the main corridor with two exit points from the building,  there is no access from any flat going directly underneath the stairs so we are not obstructing anyone. Also, there are no sources of ignition which could cause a fire. Are we really breaking the regulations here?


Thank you all for your contribution




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Yes, if the council is using the zero tolerance approach to these areas instead of managed use. The whole point of the areas being concrete and sterile is to prevent a fire starting in the common areas as the design of flats and the stay put policy is these areas are sterile.
In the past serious fires have occurred and firefighters hampered by items in common parts, often as a result of arson. Tyres and seats burn, plastic melts and burns and whilst not immediately ignitable these items all include materials which will burn and produce thick black toxic smoke if exposed to a pilot fire using accelerant.

There is scope for use of common areas for certain storage and items, but it requires ongoing management, regular inspections and 100% buy in and compliance from all residents and so most landlords take the easier option of zero tolerance.

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  • 4 months later...


I live in a block of 4 owner occupied apartments, over two floors. We each have a cupboard outside our front doors on the landings, to which we all have communal keys. My cupboard and the cupboard for the apartment above me are both totally empty. My neighbour opposite and the flat above him have some pipework running up through one corner. I can sort of understand there might be a need to get to these at some time.

We have all made use of this extra space for multi bought shopping.

The management have written to us saying that storing things in the cupboards is a fire hazzard, and that possessions will be removed. Considering that all four doors are metal lined fire doors, I don't see the problem. 

Any advice please

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If the doors are fire doors, the surrounding walls and floors are suitably fire resistant (e.g. brick or block) and all penetration (e.g. the pipes) are correctly fire-stopped then it's perfectly fine to store inside them - presumably that's why they were included in the build in the first place.

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