Front of Camden Town Hall, Judd Street, London.
Camden Council has breached fire safety standards in thousands of homes in the borough. Photo: Fitzrovia News.

Council tenants are being put “at potential risk of harm” because Camden Council is failing to put right thousands of fire safety issues, a housing watchdog has found.

The government’s Regulator of Social Housing said Camden had breached home standards which meant there was and continues to be “actual and potential serious detriment” to Camden’s tenants, and slapped it with a regulatory notice to improve its performance.

Kate Dodsworth, the regulator’s chief of regulatory engagement, said: “Through our investigation, we found that Camden Council has failed to address thousands of fire safety actions in its tenants’ homes. This is unacceptable and has put tenants at potential risk of harm. The council needs to act urgently to put things right, and we will scrutinise it closely as it does this.”

It looked into the council’s actions after it was fined £500,000 this May after London Fire Brigade took it to court after a fatal fire in which Magdalena Fink died in a street property conversion in Daleham Gardens, Hampstead in November 2017.

Fire assessments in January 2013 and May 2017 found serious risks including combustible wooden cladding on the internal staircase and a lack of proper fire doors on flat entrances. The council had not put the problems right, although they were on its list of work which needed doing.

The regulator examined “whether the fire safety failings demonstrated by this case had been resolved and whether Camden was compliant with our regulatory standards”.

The investigation found Camden had more than 9,000 fire remedial actions overdue across its estate of homes — and 1,500 had been on the list to be completed since 2020.

This included 400 high-risk overdue actions, despite a timetable setting out that a third should have been completed within 10 days and the rest within a month.

The regulator looked at a 2019 internal audit of fire safety which found overdue remedial actions and problems about the quality and reporting of issues.

Since then the council has completed more than 40,000 tasks raised by fire risk assessments, improved the way it reports on the work which is needed, and has new governance.

This includes a resident fire safety panel to quiz it on its performance and make recommendations about fire prevention, preparedness, and response and recovery.

“However, taking into account the outcome of the fire in 2017, the findings of the internal audit in 2019 and the current fire safety position, the evidence demonstrates a longstanding failure by LB Camden to complete all fire safety remedial actions in a timely manner and to mitigate the risks to tenants in the meantime,” stated the regulator.

“As a consequence, tenants have been, and continue to be, exposed to potential harm.”

It also criticised the council for a potential breach of home standard rules that at least one smoke alarm is fitted on each storey with living accommodation and carbon monoxide detectors are put in rooms with a fixed combustion appliance.

More than 9,000 Camden council homes were lacking a hard-wired smoke alarm and just under 4,000 properties were without a carbon monoxide detector.

The regulator concluded that Camden Council “does not have an effective system in place to allow it to meet its responsibilities in relation to its statutory fire safety responsibilities”.

Camden Council leader Georgia Gould responded to the Notice saying: “There is nothing more important than the safety of our residents and we are taking this notice very seriously.”

In the wake of the fatal fire at Grenfell Tower she said fire safety was “our first priority and that we would invest in a new era of resident safety. ”

Cllr Gould recognised there is still more work to be done but a programme of work is in place for delivery this year and next.

“I won’t be content until every action is complete and that’s what our teams are working on delivering right now. We recognise that many of the remaining actions outlined by the Regulator are difficult for residents, such as the removal of security grilles. We will be working alongside residents to complete these.

“Our focus has been on meeting the standards required by fire risk assessments, but we also want to get to an even higher standard across the board, a standard of excellent housing that our residents deserve.

“To do this we need Government to back us after years of under investment nationally in council housing. This includes direct cuts to rental income. We want every resident to live in a safe, damp-free, high-quality home. We won’t wait for Government to act, rather we will continue to push our stretched resources to focus on even faster action to keep residents safe,” she said.