Reading council accused of lying over fire risk window project

A man who lets flats in Southcote has accused Reading Borough Council of lying over ‘fire risk’ windows.

Jason Fewings, 61, bought a flat to let out to tenants in a ‘Right to Buy’ purchase from Reading Borough Council (RBC).

The flat he rents out, 11 Dwyer Road, is part of a four storey block.

Although the flat is private, the council is still the freeholder.

Mr Fewings has accused the council of lying about a £10,000-£14,000 project to replace windows that could present a fire risk.

He claimed that leaseholders were informed the windows had to be replaced with a cost of up to £10k, which then grew to £15k to include replacement bannisters.

When the landlord asked why it was necessary he was told by RBC that the fire brigade had told them to.

He said: “I contacted the fire brigade and was told no such thing existed, they had not corresponded with RBC regarding window replacement.

“When I put this to RBC they said that because of Grenfell Towers and new regulations brought in they were having to change the windows.”

Mr Fewings claimed he spoke to the fire brigade again who said ‘the new regulations didn’t apply’ to 33 Dwyer Road.

Adding: “When I emailed RBC housing again I was told the previous fire risk assessment had come back moderate to high risk and that for this reason they were changing the windows.

“I asked for a copy of the assessment which I received, the main issues are not with the windows they are with other details that seem either not to be in place or need addressing by RBC.

“I have constantly asked them to give me the definite legal reasons as to why the windows need replacing, they have failed to do so to the point they have blatantly lied to me.”

RBC has admitted that an email claiming that the Royal Berkshire Fire and Rescue Service recommended the window replacements was incorrect.

A council spokesperson said: “The council takes the safety of residents in its properties very seriously.

“As such, following the tragedy at Grenfell Tower, the council commissioned an independent review from expert Fire Engineering Consultants to assess fire safety across the housing stock. Although the council was found to be compliant from a fire safety point of view we have always sought to further improve fire safety where possible, and received a number of recommendations as to how we could do that.

“Due to the nature of the stacked windows on the Dwyer Road flats, we were advised that fire safety could be improved further by replacing the type of windows.

“An email sent to a leaseholder stating that Fire Brigade had recommended the changes was incorrect.

“The windows on these blocks were last replaced in 1997 and are close to the end of their 30 year life, so the program was brought forward slightly following the review.

“A two-stage leaseholder consultation took place as part of the legal process, as required in line with the Landlord and Tenant Act. Initial estimates for the work were between £10,000 and £14,000, however the final price following the procurement was higher as a result of high inflation and rising material and labor costs which unfortunately had an impact on the construction sector.

“Our Housing team have been in contact with leaseholders and reassured them that we can work with them on suitable payment arrangements for them to manage the costs of these works.

“RBC is committed to maintaining decent safe homes for our residents and will continue to ensure that its programs of maintenance work reflect that.”

The council spokesperson confirmed that the project is going ahead.

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