Many of us will have seen news and comment on fire safety in blocks of flats, and can sympathise with the plight of leaseholders living in high-risk, high-rise. Meanwhile, has it prompted you to take a fresh look at the fire safety of your own homes?
In England and Wales, all blocks of flats are required to have and maintain a fire risk assessment1.
Individual flats are not covered by this requirement, but all non-domestic parts of the premises (which includes communal areas) are.
A fire risk assessment (FRA) is a review of a building to identify its fire risks and ways of managing them. Carrying it out is the responsibility of the building owner (freeholder), a Residents’ Management Company, or a Right to Manage Company. Any of these may decide to delegate the responsibly to a managing agent.
The law does not specify who is qualified to carry out a fire risk assessment, only that the person must be competent enough to complete a ‘suitable and sufficient’ assessment of that particular building.
So, although you could be competent enough to carry out a fire risk assessment yourself, if you live in a large or complex building you may need to commission a professional to carry out the assessment. You can download a guide to choosing a competent fire risk assessor 2 from the Chief Fire Officers Association’s website.
Fire risk assessments may not have to be done every year but an annual review does not seem unreasonable, especially if there have been changes to the way the common areas are used or installation of, for instance, new furnishings.
The assessment is, of course, redundant if you don’t all act on it.
That means the responsible person or managing agent needs to make any changes recommended and ensure that firefighting and detection equipment is regularly serviced. Individual leaseholders have a responsibility to be vigilant too; ensuring that escape routes are free of obstructions and that fire doors in communal areas are not propped open.
Each resident should read and understand the evacuation plan for the building and install smoke alarms3 in their own flats (if they are not already built in).
There is a lot of information to take in to increase fire safety in a block of flats, whatever its size. Probably the most comprehensive source of information on fire safety in blocks of flats4 that we have found is the government-funded independent Leasehold Advisory Service5.
The sole purpose of this blog is to provide guidance on the issues covered. This article is not intended to give legal advice, and, accordingly, it should not be relied upon. It should not be regarded as a comprehensive statement of the law and/or market practice in this area. We make no claims as to the completeness or accuracy of the information contained herein or in the links which were live at the date of publication. You should not act upon (or should refrain from acting upon) information in this publication without first seeking specific legal and/or specialist advice. Arthur J. Gallagher Insurance Brokers Limited trading as Deacon accepts no liability for any inaccuracy, omission or mistake in this publication, nor will we be responsible for any loss which may be suffered as a result of any person relying on the information contained herein.