Following the tragedy of Grenfell in June 2017, matters of fire safety have been at the forefront of government legislation for some time, with calls for the UK’s building safety system to be reformed. The Building Safety Reform and The Fire Safety Bill 2020 will be a combination of updates and legal requirements that span across planning, construction, building control, building management and residents.
In June 2019, the government published the ‘Building a Safer Future’ consultation, which our Director, Douglas Haig was a part of. This consultation details proposals and changes that will affect the property industry including planning and construction through to occupation and management. The reform will include any buildings that are 6 stories or above, it will be ‘phased in’. One of the reforms main items is the importance of new roles from Building Safety Manager, Accountable Person and The Resident to ensure building safety.
This reform is yet to go through parliamentary debate.
This bill has changes which affect all managed residential blocks in England and Wales, this covers apartment blocks, student accommodations and short term accommodation. The bill focuses on residents’ door and external wall structures, there will be a clear legal obligation to the Freeholder, RMC and any Managing Agent to ensure these areas do not compromise the overall fire integrity of the building. The bill still requires Royal Assent before these legal requirements come into place.
Previously, it has been difficult for managing agents to ensure the fire safety of the building in regards to non-communal doors and not being able to manage or influence the door’s fire integrity, with leaseholders being free to contest to pay for inspection or remedial works. However, once the bill has passed, freeholders and managing 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.
Freeholders and Managing Agents will have a duty to ensure any external structure, including balconies, cladding and windows will not promote the speak of fire, regardless of building height. Newer buildings may find this process straightforward by reviewing construction information and spot-checking the installation, which would be sufficient record-keeping. However, buildings with no historical data may require more intrusive surveys in order to check the materials for combustibility and the adequacy of their installation.
At Seraph, we are at the forefront of legislation due to our Director often being involved at the consultation stage. If you are looking for a block managing agent or considering moving management companies, please don’t hesitate to contact us.