The JIT is the national fire safety Joint Inspection Team, which is hosted by the LGA, and funded by MHCLG.
The team inspects blocks using Housing Act 2004 to assess the hazard level in a block, and advises the ‘host’ council via an extensive report and risk assessment. Where there are serious problems in a block, councils usually take enforcement action, and use the evidence from JIT to get landlords to act.
The JIT is a fully multiple disciplinary team with a fire engineer, a building control surveyor, and a team of environmental health professionals – we also have an intelligence officer, and legal advisors.
In 2021/22 the JIT team’s remit has been widened to cover to cover non ACM combustible cladding, and also to help train councils staff so that they might have the skills to do their own inspections and enforcement action.
- Will the council need to have staff on the site inspection?
JIT attend as advisors to the council, and we must be accompanied by council staff as the authorised officers (the council staff must have a warrant card). The JIT team will have up to six staff on site, and usually split into two groups of three during an inspection, so council staff are needed on inspections. Two council staff are usually sufficient.
- Who else should the council invite on inspections?
JIT have found that inspections run quicker and smoother with less rather than more attending. A landlord or responsible person (RP) representative should be available to provide the necessary access to restricted areas when required – a caretaker/block manager is usually sufficient - there is no need for any RP representatives to directly accompany the team on the inspection. JIT encourage the Fire & Rescue Service to attend the debrief meeting post inspection (where JIT give the main findings and an indicative Housing Health & Safety Rating System: HHSRS score), rather than attend the inspection itself.
- What role should leaseholders or leaseholder representatives play?
Leaseholders (and occupiers) are required to be notified by the council under a S239 notice (see below). JIT usually inspect a representative sample of properties; normally this is approximately 5-10 per cent. If we see floorplans beforehand, we will advise the council beforehand of the flats we will wish to go inside – JIT will want the council to facilitate those inspections, informing specific occupiers of JIT’s intention to inspect. Special arrangements exist during lockdown restrictions and JIT will discuss with the council what inspections are practical and safe under such circumstances.
The extent of consultation with leaseholders or leaseholder representatives is a matter for the council and its consultation strategy, however neither leaseholders nor leaseholder representatives should attend JIT inspection days.
- How long do inspections take?
We allow two full days on site: the duty holder should be asked for access 9am to 6pm, and if we finish early that’s fine. We cannot fit in a return to the site after the two days, so it’s best to allow for the full two days.
- What will the council need to do if JIT come to inspect a block in our area?
The council is the legal authority, so will need to serve all the formal notices, and arrange access. This usually involves s235 letters to get information about the block which helps plan an inspection, serving s239s, liaising with JIT over practical arrangements. Before JIT attend site, each council needs to sign a MOU with the LGA, (JIT’s employers).
- Who should s239 notices be served upon?
Section 239 notice of intended entry needs to be served on all persons who are owners or occupiers in the building being assessed. For clarity and depending on the ownership structure in your building it should be served on the freeholder and leaseholders and occupiers where different to the leaseholders (rented). This can be quite resource intensive.
- What documentation does the council need to provide to JIT before an inspection?
Information received from the RP by the council on serving of the S235 notice. A list of essential and desired intelligence will be provided to the council by JIT and it will include: floor plans and elevations, the latest fire strategy, the fire risk assessment and any reports detailing the results of cladding investigations already undertaken by the RP.
Additional information may include that which is available internally from the council’s planning process (or Land Charges), or information held at Companies House.
- How quickly does the council get feedback on the inspection?
Immediately after an inspection the designated council officers attend the post inspection debrief meeting where JIT give observations, main findings and an indicative HHSRS score. Council officers (or FRS reps) are free to ask questions and resolve any areas of concern. This usually takes place on the final afternoon of the inspection, but during lockdown restrictions it has been online, usually within 48 hours of the inspection.
A summary email is sent to the council within 72 hours to the Council confirming JIT’s initial assessment.
JIT provide a full report on the inspection along with recommendations and the HHSRS assessment and justifications. JIT aim to provide this report within two to three weeks of the inspection. It is anticipated that this will provide the council with the necessary information to directly inform the enforcement process.
- Who will receive a copy of the final report?
Officers designated by the council will receive a copy of the report and the HHSRS assessment. A copy of the report will also be kept by JIT for future reference and made available to the MHCLG via a shared site. JIT will not make the report available to any other individual or organisation, unless the council asks us to.
In addition, JIT will not disseminate to a third party any intelligence you provide to JIT that the council receive from serving a S235 notice, nor other intelligence the council provides in support of the inspection or subsequent enforcement, for example correspondence between JIT and the council.
- Are there restrictions on who the council can release the report to?
There are no restrictions.
JIT encourages the council to share the evidence about the block within the report with the Fire & Rescue Service. JIT advises that robust version control is in place to prevent unintended distribution to third parties.
If the council decide to share the report with the building owners/duty holders, the advice is to withhold the Recommendations Section, the JIT team names under Persons Present and the signatories at the end. We also advise withholding the whole of Appendix 1 – the HHSRS assessment, unless a case moves to a Tribunal.
(JIT have found that releasing the HHSRS assessment can distract from the main issues, as building owners focus on disputing the individual scores that appear under the relevant matters).
- What will the council need to do post inspection?
The council will then be responsible for preparing and serving any subsequent enforcement notice. JIT advice, bespoke to each authority, is available from experienced JIT officers, both on the enforcement process and the composition of an enforcement notice.
- Who would pay for Works in Default if the landlord failed to remediate after an Improvement Notice was served?
Before undergoing and arranging works in default (WID), councils are advised to contact MHCLG who will consider funding applications for buildings that require WID on a case by case basis. Arranging works in default is likely to entail some degree of specialised advice and project management. So far, JIT hasn’t had a block that has come to close to Works in Default.
- What happens if the landlord says they don’t have to do safety works because the building was signed off by a building controller?
Our legal advice is that sign off as compliant with building regulations does not rule out action under Housing Act 2004. HHSRS is based on evidence of a hazard, and if there’s evidence of a fire safety hazard, a Tribunal should support appropriate enforcement whether or not something was signed off by a building control professional.