Policy and Publications

Housing reports, policies and publications

Housing management annual reports

Our ambition has always been to have one of the best housing management services in London. Our Annual Report gives an open, transparent and honest account of how the service is performing every year.

Like all local authority landlords, we are required to inform you, our tenants, about how we are meeting the Consumer Standards set by the Government’s regulator of social housing. These standards cover the areas of:

  • Home
  • Tenant Involvement and Empowerment
  • Neighbourhood and Community
  • Tenancy

The report give an overview of the progress that we are making in these areas, and its structure has been agreed with residents.

Our latest annual report gives an open, transparent and honest account of how our Housing Management service is performing, and informs tenants about how we are meeting the Consumer Standards set by the Government’s regulator of social housing. View the report for the financial year 2020 – 21

Housing Management - Tenant’s handbook

The following handbook provides you with information about the services Housing Management offer, as well as help about your tenancy. It explains what you can expect from us and what we expect from you. You will find information on a range of topics including how to request a repair and how to pay your rent.

We want to deliver the best possible housing service to you, but if you have any concerns, this handbook has details about how to contact us if you want to make a complaint.

Housing publications

We have put together some housing factsheets on key housing issues. The factsheets provide a very basic summary of the issue, the possible actions you can take, and who to contact for further information.

We are currently reviewing a number of our factsheets. If you cannot find what you are looking for, please contact Housingline on 020 7361 3008 or email housing@rbkc.gov.uk.

For the Grenfell Rehousing Policy and Grenfell support newsletters, please visit the Grenfell Support website.

Housing policies and strategies

Communal Areas and Private Balcony Storage Policy

Contents

Introduction

2.1    The Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea Housing Management (RBKC HM) have duties to manage fire safety in common areas of our residential buildings.

2.2    This policy sets out RBKC Housing Management’s approach to manage fire safety risks in communal and private balcony areas, specifically in terms of housekeeping standards. 

2.3    The purpose of this policy is to provide clear standards to support effective management of common areas for the safety of residents and other users of the buildings. 

2.4    RBKC HM recognise the value that positive ambience brings to peoples’ lives and wellbeing. In formulating this policy, RBKC has given consideration to ensuring the safety of our buildings whilst maintaining common areas in a reasonable and proportionate manner, ensuring that the quality of our residents’ homes is upheld.

Related Documents

3.1    This policy should be read in conjunction with the following Council policies, procedures and documents:

  • Mobility Scooter Policy 
  • Fire Safety Policy
  • RBKC Tenancy Agreement
  • Equality and Cohesion Policy Statement (RBKC)

Policy Statement

4.1    This policy applies to all residents who are living in residential homes managed by RBKC Housing Management. It does not apply in circumstances where RBKC does not have primary responsibility for managing common parts.

4.2    RBKC Housing Management will ensure the safety and security of our premises by correctly limiting, storing or disposing of items that have potential to pose a health and safety and fire risk to our residents, visitors, colleagues and emergency services. This includes ensuring routes of access and exits in the event of an emergency are clear and safe.

4.3    RBKC Housing Management recognise that clean communal areas promote a sense of pride and wellbeing for residents, therefore, we will support residents in keeping their neighbourhoods well maintained and safe.

4.4    RBKC Housing Management will work with residents if there are items in communal areas that have the potential to pose a health and safety / fire risk, where appropriate. 

4.5    RBKC has a legal duty to make sure that all fire escapes and fire routes are kept clear at all times. It is important that residents keep communal areas free from any obstruction or fire risk.

4.6    RBKC Housing Management is committed to a high level of cleanliness and standard on its estates and will act appropriately to remove any items from communal areas in order to encourage responsible storage/disposal of items and discourage fly tipping and similar practices. 

4.7    RBKC Housing Management will, as part of our commitment to fire safety within communal areas, regularly monitor these areas by carrying out estate inspections in order to:

  • Report and deal with any issues which could be a risk to health and safety such as trip hazards or obstructions of fire access routes; 
  • Report on fly tipping, dumped or abandoned items

It is also the responsibility of staff who are out and about on estates to report issues that may cause health and safety risks or damage to properties or communal areas. This also includes where personal items are stored/displayed in communal areas.

4.8    RBKC Housing Management support collaborative working relationships between all teams involved when discussing health and safety and fire safety risks for communal areas. This includes:

  • Neighbourhood Management Teams
  • Estate and Environmental Services Team
  • Fire Safety Team
  • Health, Safety and Resilience Team
  • Aids and Adaptations Team
  • Home Ownership Team

Managed Approach

5.1    RBKC Housing Management will use a ‘managed approach’ (as recognised in guidance) to communal areas to protect the health and safety of residents and other users of the buildings. This means that RBKC Housing Management will limit the amount of allowable items in communal areas, in order to:

  • Control fire hazards
  • Reduce the likelihood of fire spread
  • Keep exits, corridors and stairways clear for safe escape purposes
  • Maintain communal areas for the safety and wellbeing of all residents, visitors, staff, contractors and the emergency services
  • Allow RBKC HM to carry out their obligations for communal cleaning and effective property management and maintenance

5.2    The key principles that support our ‘managed policy’ are about a ‘common sense’ approach based on the level of risk to a situation. This means that RBKC Housing Management will take into account key health and safety principles when considering the most appropriate/practicable measure(s) to take to reduce the risk identified to as low as reasonably practicable. This includes looking at the type of hazard identified and the likelihood of the risk occurring. 

As part of this, RBKC Housing Management reserve the right to make adaptations to the Policy on a case-by-case basis. This dynamic approach is key to ensuring that the Policy remains effective and the most suitable action is taken to reduce the risk.

5.3    In particular, we note that a ‘one size fits all’ approach will not be appropriate for all of our blocks. There may be some items and approaches which are allowable in smaller buildings, with fewer residents, which would not be appropriate in larger buildings with a greater occupancy.

5.4    RBKC Housing Management will ensure that fire risk is managed appropriately, and therefore if there is evidence of anti-social behaviour, which could increase the risk of arson, for example, we will adapt the Policy to meet that particular situation, so that it remains effective.

5.5    Some materials are more hazardous than others. Plastics are generally more easily ignited and more hazardous when ignited than wood.  Metals are generally much less combustible and therefore will often be safer from a fire safety perspective. 

5.6    If the ‘managed approach’ is not adhered to; in such instances, RBKC Housing Management reserve the right to change this approach to that of a ‘zero tolerance’ approach to ensure the safety of the building, minimise risk and communal areas are kept safe and clear. This means that no items are permitted in communal areas.

5.7    RBKC Housing Management will, in the case of any changes or adaptations to the ‘managed policy’, engage and communicate with residents, where appropriate.

Communal Areas

6.1    RBKC Housing Management will ensure that communal areas are used in the correct way for the benefit of residents, visitors, staff and emergency services.

6.2    For the purposes of this policy, communal areas include approach balconies serving multiple flats, corridors, landings, stairs, cupboards for use by multiple residents or contractors, etc., under stair areas as well as external areas forming part of the common facilities or escape routes for the building.

6.3    Where RBKC has communal facilities in residential buildings (i.e. resident lounges, laundry facilities and kitchen areas etc.), we will manage these appropriately by carrying out portable appliance testing to items within these areas, where required. Residents using these facilities should ensure that the areas are used appropriately, including:

  • Keeping fire exits and emergency routes clear from any obstructions
  • Using appliances and kitchen facilities in accordance with relevant instructions

6.4    RBKC Housing Management will undertake regular inspections of communal facilities and carry out any corrective actions that may be required. 

6.5    There are some key principles which must be followed by residents for communal areas:

  • Any items introduced under the ‘managed policy’ must not obstruct routes in such a way that prevents wheelchair user access. This means that a 1m width (or the existing corridor width, where the width is less than 1m) should be maintained at all times.
  • Any items introduced under the ‘managed policy’ must not compromise either escape or fire-fighting activities or obstruct any fire-fighting equipment at any time.
  • Any items introduced under the ‘managed policy’ should not cause damage to the existing building fabric. 
  • Any items introduced under the ‘managed policy’ must not disproportionately increase the fire risk.

6.6    Permitted items (all blocks)

The following items are permitted in communal areas (excluding stairways):

  • A purpose-made doormat can be placed outside a resident’s front door. The doormat should be in good / reasonable condition, non-slip, should not be made from offcuts of carpet or similar materials and should not cause an obstruction to anyone. 
  • Small wall-mounted metal-framed painting(s), that must be fully covered with a glass front securely fixed in the frame.
  • Metal-framed mirror (located in a way that does not reflect direct sunlight).  
  • Decorative plants / flowers, provided that:
    • They are provided in pots and made of limited combustibility materials (i.e. pots must not be plastic and must only be metal, ceramic, clay, etc.).
    • The plants are not artificial (i.e. only real plants or flowers allowed).
    • The plants are kept alive and watered, in soil, at all times.
    • The plants are located in a way that does not cause any obstruction to either residents (in the course of escape) or fire-fighters (in the course of fire-fighting activities).
    • The plants are not mounted in a way that poses a head-height hazard, or that causes any damage to any wall, door or surface.
    • The plants, when watered, do not cause a slip hazard.

6.7    Exemptions for smaller blocks

In smaller blocks (such as old houses converted into flats, that are provided with automatic fire detection and alarm systems to initiate simultaneous evacuation procedures), and which have less than 10 flats accessed via the common areas, a small table or cabinet, formed of solid wood or metal, may be acceptable, for the purposes of sorting post, etc.

6.8    Allowances for reasonable adjustments

Where a building has a vulnerable or disabled resident, who has difficulty with, for example, mobility, additional allowances can be made to provide a metal hinged chair (for the purposes of comfortable waiting for the lift car to arrive), or for a small, suitably-located stool or chair formed of limited combustibility materials. These requests will be assessed and agreed by RBKC on a case-by-case basis.

6.9    Allowances for bicycles

In some blocks, where storage of bicycles can be safely achieved in accordance with the principles set out in Clause 6.5, it may be permissible to store a bicycle, providing it is secured and will not topple over or excessively move during escape or fire-fighting. This is on the basis of a low fire load associated with bicycles.  Residents can discuss bicycle storage with RBKC if there are any queries regarding this Clause.

No other item is permissible in communal areas unless written permission is given by RBKC Housing Management. 

6.10    Items not allowed in communal areas

Below is a list of common items found in communal areas that are not permissible under any circumstances:

  • Prams or push chairs
  • Refuse/black bags
  • Naked flames or burning of any kind e.g. candles or incense sticks
  • Mobility scooters
  • Mopeds
  • Bags and boxes of old clothes or newspapers
  • Combustible furniture (other than those permitted in accordance with Clauses 6.5 and 6.6 of this Policy)
  • White goods (whether awaiting disposal or not)
  • Seasonal items – e.g. decorations
  • Canvas and textile-based artwork or unframed / uncovered pictures

6.11    Residents are encouraged to contact RBKC HM, if they have any queries or require advice on general health and safety in communal areas or storage on private balconies.

6.12    RBKC Housing Management will provide advice and support to residents on matters relating to communal areas, where needed. 

6.13    Whilst RBKC Housing Management appreciates the role that mobility scooters can play in maintaining independence for residents who need to use them, it has a duty to consider the health and safety of all building users. 

6.14    Where RBKC Housing Management becomes aware of a mobility scooter being stored or charged in communal areas, arrangements will be made to have it removed due to the increased fire risk, health and safety risks and obstruction hazards posed. Where possible, Neighbourhood Management Teams will contact and work with residents to find alternative arrangements for their mobility scooters.

6.15    Neighbourhood Management Teams will work with Health and Safety, Supported Housing, Aids and Adaptations, Estate Services and other internal/external support services, where required if residents may have additional storage needs in relation to accessibility.

6.16    Residents are encouraged to report any non-permitted items in communal areas to RBKC Housing Management on 0800 137 111 or email: HM-CustomerServices@rbkc.gov.uk.

6.17    RBKC Housing Management will ensure that any abandoned goods are disposed of or removed in order to prevent risk to residents.

6.18    Neighbourhood Management Teams will review communal area storage issues, where appropriate.

Private Balconies

7.1    Where lower ground floor or ground floor dwellings exist, walkways, rear gardens and front patios should be treated as a private balcony.

7.2    Allowable Items

The following items are permitted in private balcony areas: 

  • Metal (or thick timber) framed tables and chairs.
  • Clothes-line - clothes must not over-hang balcony railings and must be placed as close to balcony doors as possible. There have been incidents of cigarette ends being thrown from other balconies presenting a fire risk.
  • Plants/flowers that do not pose a hazard of falling and are kept watered, and alive in pots made of limited combustibility materials.

7.3    Items not allowed on private balconies

The following items present a hazard and are not permitted:

  • Gas canisters, barbeques or patio heaters
  • Fuel, petrol or sources of ignition of any kind (or any equipment powered by fuel e.g. generators or gardening equipment)
  • Trailing cables, sockets or electrical white goods
  • Paints, oils or paint thinners
  • Excessive furniture or items cluttering the balcony 
  • Plastic or upholstered furniture
  • Loose plant pots / plant pots placed insecurely on ledges 
  • Curtaining or enclosing of the balcony on any side i.e. bamboo screens
  • Gating off any communal area or balcony 
  • Gazebos, tents and sheds – if they cannot be sited more than six metres away from any RBKC building perimeter. There have been incidents of fires caused by carelessly discarded smoking materials fuelled by garden structures in the past. 

7.4    The above lists are not exhaustive. Other items may be considered as unsuitable or unsafe at the discretion of the RBKC.

7.5    There may be instances where site specific risks require a more stringent approach in certain blocks of flats. Where residents have any queries about the suitability of storing items in communal or balcony areas, they should seek advice and/or written permission from RBKC Housing Management.

Queries to Customer Services on 0800 137 111 or HM-CustomerServices@rbkc.gov.uk

Enforcement

8.1    Whilst RBKC HM is committed to ensuring residents enjoy and feel positive about where they live, it is equally committed to keeping residents and visitors safe. RBKC HM will work with residents to achieve this balance and will always welcome resident feedback and suggestions.

8.2    RBKC Housing Management will be proactive in taking action against individuals who risk the health and safety of themselves and other residents in communal areas.

8.3    Where RBKC Housing Management become aware of any non-flammable personal items in a communal area, Estate Service Caretakers will place a sticker over the items, informing the owner that we will remove them in 24 hours. Residents are required to move the items, before they are removed from the area. Please refer to section 6 ‘Communal Areas’ for further information.

8.4    Communal areas are subject to routine inspections. Where flammable items are found in communal areas, these will be removed immediately under Section 41 of the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions Act 1982). There may be instances where items that are deemed hazardous may also be subject to immediate removal.

8.5    RBKC Housing Management Officers will store non-perishable items which in their considered opinion are of value in a dedicated storage space for 28 days, after which, any unrecovered property will be disposed of. Residents may be liable for the costs of removal and disposal of any non-permitted items found in communal areas. RBKC are not liable for loss or damage to any item if they have been left in a communal area.  Additionally, if there is any damage to communal areas caused by the storage of these type of items, the costs of making good the damage may be recharged to the resident.

8.6    RBKC Housing Management will take photographs of items that are to be stored or disposed of.

8.7    RBKC Housing Management takes a serious view on breaches of tenancy or lease agreements that pose a fire risk or health and safety risk to the household and others living within a block. If a resident refuse to remove items that are posing a risk following RBKC’s verbal/written requests, Neighbourhood Management may be required to take appropriate enforcement action to resolve this and may seek to recover the costs of any legal proceedings. Each case will be assessed on its own merits, and depending on the severity, an injunction or court order may be sought.

8.8    RBKC Housing Management will record all items that are subject to storage/disposal (including its condition) on the Council’s housing system.

8.9    Tenants can contact the Neighbourhood Management Team on items that have been stored.

Tenant Obligations

9.1    Tenants should familiarise themselves with the conditions of the tenancy agreement on communal areas and private balconies.

9.2    Tenants should follow the health and safety advice and guidance provided by RBKC Housing Management.

9.3    Tenants are responsible for keeping common areas clear and free from obstruction or flammable material, including but not limited to mobility scooters, mobility aids and large furniture. 

9.4    Tenants are responsible for removing all items and possessions from their property, including their private balcony area at the end of a tenancy. 

Legal Context

10.1    The key regulation around the prevention of fire in residential buildings includes:

  • The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005
  • The Housing Act 2004, which introduces the Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS) 
  • Electrical Equipment (Safety and Use) Regulations 1994 
  • Furniture and Furnishings (Fire Safety) Regulations 1988 (as amended in 1989, 1993 and 2010) 
  • The Health and Safety at Work, etc. Act 1974 

10.2    In support of legislation, there are various supporting guides which have been considered in the formulation of this Policy.  These include:

  • Fire safety in purpose-built flats by Local Government Association
  • Housing – Fire Safety by LACORS
  • Fire safety in specialised housing by the National Fire Chiefs Council 

Resident Involvement & Consultation

    In order to achieve good governance and fulfil the principles of, and commitment to a collaborative and meaningful decision-making process, Housing Management will consult with residents on the introduction of this policy and the responsibilities and conditions it states.

Equalities Statement 

The Council is committed to promoting fair and equal access to services and equal opportunities in employment, the procurement of goods and as a community leader. The Council’s policies, procedures and day to day practices have been established to promote an environment which is free from unlawful and unfair discrimination, while valuing the diversity of all people.  

Discrimination on the grounds of race, nationality, ethnic origin, religion or belief, gender, marital status, sexuality, disability and age is not acceptable:  the Council will take action to ensure no person using the council’s premises or services receives less favourable treatment or is disadvantaged by requirements or conditions that cannot be justified.  The Council will tackle inequality, treat all people with dignity and respect and continue to work to improve services for all service users.
        
The legal framework for the Council’s approach is provided by the Equality Act 2010 and specifically by the Public Sector Equality Duty, under which a public authority must work consciously to eliminate discrimination, harassment, victimisation and to advance equality of opportunity and foster good relations between people with differing characteristics. 

Further detail on the Duty, and the Council’s approach to fulfilling its requirements, can be found on our website.

GDPR and Data Protection Act 2018 

As a directorate of RBKC, Housing Management shares the commitment to ensure that all data is:

  • processed lawfully, fairly and in a transparent manner
  • collected for a specific and legitimate purpose and not used for anything other than this stated purpose, or as provided for in our privacy and fair processing notices
  • relevant and limited to whatever the requirements are for which the data is processed
  • accurate, and where necessary, kept up to date.  Any identified inaccuracies will be amended or removed without undue delay
  • stored for as long as required, as specified within RBKC’s Records Retention policy
  • secured with appropriate solutions, which protect the data against unauthorised or unlawful processing and accidental loss, destruction or damage.

For further information about the Council’s commitment to the General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR), visit the Council’s website at www.rbkc.gov.uk.

Tenancy Policy summary leaflet [PDF] (file size 188Kb)

 

Information for our housing partners

Last updated: 3 December 2021