Fire safety: buying or selling a property

Fire safety - Grenfell Tower

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.”

 

Useful links:

http://www.ucl.ac.uk/estates/maintenance/fire/documents/purpose_built_flats.pdf

https://www.rla.org.uk/landlord/guides/housing_act/firesafety.shtml

Please note that this article represents only the opinions of the author and no reliance should be placed on any of the content.

8 Responses to Fire safety: buying or selling a property

  • Nats says:

    What happens if your landlord or lease holder does not comply with this or want to cooperate?

  • Ed says:

    I’m looking to purchase a flat and the management company has told us that they haven’t any record of the Fire Safety Risk assessment… can we still exchange and complete without these? and then add these to our documents once completed?

    • Susan Clegg says:

      Hi Ed,

      It is legally possible to complete your purchase without the Fire Risk Safety Assessment but it will depend on the circumstances and it’s not something we would generally recommend. It may also be one of the requirements of your mortgage lender that you have this in place. I would suggest checking with your lender and with your conveyancer.

      Best wishes
      Susan

  • Giuseppe Fidelibus says:

    i am in the same situation as Ed’s. Is it possible to pay for a Fire Risk Assessment if the management company doesn’t want to cooperate? In other word, as a leaseholder, am I authorised to call a specialist and get a Fire Risk Assessment done for the building?

  • Sandra Tansey says:

    My daughter’s solicitor asked for a fire risk assessment on a flat she is buying…the management committee of flats didn’t have one..so she paid for one. The solicitor is now asking about fire alarms in communal areas..the flats don’t have them..my daughter had already signed her contract..mortgage in place…where does she stand. Solicitor keeps putting obstacles in her way…can u advise please

    • Susan Clegg says:

      Hello Sandra,

      Since your daughter is in the middle of a transaction with another solicitor we can’t give you direct advice, but there is some very helpful information on the Leasehold Advisory Service website here – https://www.lease-advice.org/fire-safety/.

      I hope you can find what you need.

      PM Property Lawyers