Tenant faces eviction after raising fire safety fears

Report by James Cracknell

Goddarts House, Walthamstow

Risk assessors found 41 fire safety flaws at Goddarts House in Walthamstow

A sheltered housing tenant is facing eviction after raising concerns about fire safety in his building.

Roy Sutton, 68, became frustrated at the lack of action taken by Waltham Forest Council after inspectors found dozens of fire safety flaws at Goddarts House in Hoe Street, Walthamstow.

A fire risk assessment compiled in May by risk-assessors Ridge on behalf of the council, and seen by the Echo, concluded that Goddarts House had “moderate risk” and that “essential action must be made to reduce the risk”.

The report listed 41 remedial actions that were necessary, including adjustments to the self-closing devices on flat doors and replacement of damaged smoke seals on communal doors. It also stated that the fire alarm system was not installed correctly and that fire procedure notices in the building carried “inappropriate wording” – with residents unaware of the correct actions to take in the event of a fire.

Roy had requested to see a copy of the fire risk assessment for the building, using Freedom of Information laws, after growing concerned at faults with the building’s newly-installed front doors. He hired an independent expert to assess the door to his own flat, who found damage to strips designed to seal in the event of a fire, faulty self-closing devices, and uncertified hinges.

He told the Echo: “The door is a total failure. It should close on its own but it doesn’t. There’s no label of certification. The door closers need to be repaired and the hinges replaced.”

Last month the council served a Notice of Seeking Possession, the first stage in eviction proceedings, claiming that Roy had “breached” his tenancy agreement.

“The council rarely answer when I call but they said I am harassing them and threatening them,” said Roy. “There was a meeting with officers and I told them I had tested a sample of the PVC. Now they have sent me an eviction order and given me a month to move out.

“They claimed I set fire to my door and they put it in the meeting minutes, but it’s not what I said – it’s false.”

Since the possession notice was issued to Roy, London Fire Brigade has visited Goddarts House. The council claims they found nothing of concern with the fire doors – in contrast to the findings of the building’s earlier fire risk assessment.

Councillor Louise Mitchell, cabinet member for housing, said: “The health and safety of our residents and tenants is always a top priority. London Fire Brigade has visited the site and not raised concerns around the fire doors at Goddarts House.

“The inspection that the resident arranged was purely visual. Some of the items marked as missing or not present are not even features of this particular model of door. A visual inspection is not an adequate substitute for an in-depth assessment of the equipment.

“The doors are rated as fire resistant up to sixty minutes, which is above the regulation standard of thirty minutes. We conduct regular inspections of all our properties to make sure that tenants are kept safe.”