Following recent press reports (The Hinckley Times Wed Oct 20) Leicestershire Fire and Rescue Service chiefs have agreed in principle to start charging private landlords for false fire alarms instigated by tenants.
They claim that only 80 out of 2,700 automatic fire alarm call-outs in the last year were real fires.
It is proposed that the owners of properties where repeated false fire-alarm call-outs occur could end up paying £290 each time the brigade attends.
According to the reports, full details of the scheme have not been finalised but a decision to impose fines on repeat alarm offenders was taken at a recent meeting of the combined fire authority.
According to the Leicestershire fire service’s figures, had the measure applied before; £24,360 could have been invoiced for false call-outs between July 2013 and June 2014.
By far the highest number of false alarms came from the social housing sector: housing association premises in Leicester with 54 alerts.
The move follows a similar scheme which has been introduced in London with limited success so far, the authority decided to go ahead with plans to start charging, believing the move would lead to an improvement in the local management of fire alarm systems.
However, the measure does raise interesting questions as to the authority’s legal right to charge landlords for their tenants’ actions in this, and raises the prospect of a future legal challenge.
English case law has established over many years that landlords cannot be held liable for their tenant’s nuisance unless they authorised it, either by participating directly in the commission of the nuisance or by letting a property where the nuisance is an inevitable consequence.
This important legal principle has recently been upheld and confirmed in the Supreme Court ruling in Coventry v Lawrence 
Commercial buildings, other non-domestic and multi-occupancy (HMO) premises in England and Wales are subject to undertaking annual fire risk assessments to be carried out under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005.
The fire risk assessment includes the need for correctly designed and installed hard wired fire detection and alarm systems which are serviced (twice per year) and tested weekly.
Failure to comply will result in the designated ‘responsible person’ (landlord, property manager, or building occupants) facing an unlimited fine or up to two years in prison.
— LandlordZONE (@LandlordZONE) October 21, 2014