On Thursday 19 March 2020, the UK Government introduced the Fire Safety Bill (FSB), which seeks to make changes to the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005. These changes affect all managed residential blocks located in Great Britain (aside from Scotland, which has its own Fire Safety Legislation) of any size that are classed as sleeping accommodation; blocks of flats, student accommodation, hotels, hostels and any other property where the buildings main use includes sleeping.
Whilst not a huge amount has changed, the FSB will clear up any ambiguity in responsibility and some duty holders will likely need to review the way they manage this. Changes of note include:
- Residents Fire Doors
Historically, many Property Professionals have taken the view that, because non-communal doors were outside of their usual remit of control and maintenance obligations, that they then could not manage or influence the adequacy of the doors’ fire integrity. This had left ensuring the Fire integrity of residential escape routes as a whole being a particularly difficult task to achieve and, with no clear legal obligation, many Leaseholders were free to contest paying for any necessary inspection regime or remedial works.
Once this Bill has passed, Freeholders, RMC’s and their agents will have a clear legal obligation to ensure that the residents’ entrance doors are suitable and sufficient in preventing the spread of smoke and flames.
They will then need to ensure that all Leaseholders’ fire doors leading onto escape routes are, and remain, sufficiently Fire Rated and this is something that can only be achieved through regular inspection. It is important to note that, when the Bill is passed, you can no longer satisfy your legal obligation by simply asking for residents to inspect their own doors and report back any problems. As a duty holder, you must now ensure this to be the case and this means holding your own records of routine inspections and acting accordingly on any remedial actions.
When inspecting Residents Entrance Doors, or any Fire Doors, it is important to select a good, competent Fire Risk Assessor with an understanding of Passive Fire Protection.
The frequency of completing such inspections is, at present, anticipated to be defined within guidance and there has been some suggestion that this may be at least quarterly. We will know for certain in the near future. In the interim you must ask yourself; how frequently should you inspect residents’ doors that will leave you feeling comfortable that you have done all that you reasonably can do to have ensured their adequacy?
- External Structure: Cladding, Balconies & Windows
Until the Grenfell Tower tragedy, the external structure of a building- particularly the cladding, was seldom considered as a significant risk on the basis that building control measures were assumed to be adequate enough not to allow combustible materials to be affixed to the outside of any building.
This assumption was proven incorrect for reasons that are still being investigated.
The introduction of the Fire Safety Bill 2020 means that Freeholders and their Managing Agents will now have a duty to ensure any external wall system on their properties, or anything affixed to the building (such as balconies), will not promote the spread of Fire, regardless of building height.
For relatively new, or well documented buildings, this could be a simple process of reviewing construction information and completing a spot check to be sure it was installed as per this documentation. For other buildings with no historical data, it may require an intrusive survey in order to check the materials for combustibility and the adequacy of their installation.
If you require further advice or guidance on fire door inspections or cladding, balconies & windows, please get in touch with our expert safety team who will be happy to assist. Furthermore. you can find additional information regarding the Government’s Cladding Remediation fund and whether you’re eligible for funding, here.