The appalling fire at Grenfell Tower has brought fire safety into sharp focus.
If you are about to purchase a property – particularly a flat – you will no doubt be anxious to know that it meets fire safety regulations. If you are selling, you will also want to make sure that your sale is not affected by any failure to comply. If you are a landlord the question of meeting fire safety regulations is probably even more urgent.
Who is responsible for fire safety?
Harvey Harding, MD at PM Property Lawyers explains: “There are several pieces of legislation that cover fire safety and that particularly affect flats. The landlord, management company and in certain cases, the tenants of the properties, are responsible for complying.”
Landlords and management companies are responsible for making sure that common areas and facilities are kept up to the appropriate standards, ensuring:
- * An appropriate Fire Risk Assessment is carried out
- * Appropriate systems and practice are in place to ensure any issues arising from the assessment are reported and resolved
- * Appropriate fire detecting equipment is in place
- * Items such as fire doors, fire resistant materials where appropriate and other ‘compartmentalisation’ items are in place to control the spread of the fire
- * An appropriate means of escape is in place and kept clear and protected
- * Compliance with lease terms, such as not to keep flammable materials or do anything to invalidate the insurance
- * If the landlord alters the building, appropriate consent is obtained from Building Regulations (which includes fire safety)
If making alterations to the property leaseholders must:
- * Take into consideration and obtain appropriate consent from Building Regulations (which includes fire safety)
- * Obtain consent from the landlord to the alterations who themselves must then take fire safety into consideration
- * Comply with the remainder of the terms of the lease in relation to fire safety
Harvey adds: “The legislation deals with common areas and not the flat itself, the idea being that the fire in a person’s own flat should be able to be contained if the appropriate fire doors etc. are in place. Recent events have unfortunately proved that this is not necessarily the case. It will always be the buyer’s responsibility to check the individual flat they are buying and that they are happy to buy it.”
Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMO)
Under the Housing Act, Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMO) must obtain an HMO licence and it is the responsibility of the landlord and the local authority to ensure that fire safety standards are met.
How your conveyancer helps
If you are buying a leasehold property or a freehold property where there is shared land or facilities, your conveyancer will ask the seller for a copy of the Fire Risk Assessment.
If the seller is unable to supply it, we will ask them to obtain an assurance from the freeholder/management company that one will be made available within a reasonable period of time. We will not commit you to an exchange of contracts until you have the fire assessment.
If there have been any recent alterations to communal areas we will ask for confirmation that they comply with the relevant legislation.
If the flat itself has recently been altered, we will make checks regarding building regulations and the landlord’s consent.
“As conveyancers, we obviously can’t ensure that all the requirements have been met,” Harvey comments, “but we can help our clients make the right decisions about whether to buy a particular property.”
Please note that this article represents only the opinions of the author and no reliance should be placed on any of the content.