Fire Safety Bill

Written evidence submitted by the British Property Federation (FSB05)

Fire Safety Bill Briefing – Committee Stage

Introduction

1. The British Property Federation welcomes the Fire Safety Bill and the clarity it seeks to provide to the Fire Safety Order.

2. In seeking to provide clarity, however, the Bill does not explain the practical problems of how a building owner will always gain the co-operation of individual flat owners to carry out their duties under the Bill.

3. New duties on Fire and Rescue Services to receive monthly reports on inspections of lifts are also not clear on what happens with such reports.

4. On the specific issues covered by the Bill we would highlight the following:

Facades

5. Clause 1 b) New insertion into the Fire Safety order (1A) states "the building’s structure and external walls and any common parts". (1B) goes on to say "that anything attached to the exterior of those walls (including balconies) is covered".

6. This is a welcome and sensible amendment. However, we wonder whether a facade is either part of a building's structure or its external walls, and sometimes it will not be attached to the walls. For the avoidance of doubt, it may be helpful to ensure that facade is included in the wording.

Duty to co-operate

7. The Bill makes provision for doors , balconies etc to fall within the Fire Safety Order and therefore under the duties of the building owner or the property manager . Such parts of a building, however, may fall within the flat of a resident. C urrently those responsible for building safety will not have the powers to force an individual flat owner to co-operate and fit a fire safe door or give access to the balcony . The Building Safety Bill will include new powers for a flat owner to follow a duty to co-operate, which will ultimately be enforceable in court if other means have been exhausted. However :

7.1. T here is an issue of different timings between this Bill and the future Building Safety Bill . At present, with the Fire Safety Bill coming first, there is a concern that those who are being held accountable for building safety will not have the powers to deliver their duties, if a flat owner simply says 'no'. This legislation will need to be sympathetic to this position and how the new duty to co-operate works between this Bill and the other Bill.

7.2. The new regime being introduced by the Building Safety Bill is applied to buildings of 18m and above and therefore it is not clear whether the new duty to co-operate will apply to all residential buildings, or just those of 18m+. If only 18m+ , then building owners will not be able to rely on the duty to cooperate in most buildings to perform their duties under this Bill.

Doors

8. So far as fire doors are concerned, there has been significant product failure. It is therefore broadly welcome that the Bill seeks to provide clarity about duties . However, it should be recognised that this will have significant cost consequences for flat owners if they are having to pay to have doors replaced. Some suppliers will not survive a significant product recall, and some doors will be too old to qualify for recall. Flat owners may need some support if they are not to bear a significant cost.

Lifts

9. The Bill introduces a new duty of the provision of regular lift inspections with the findings summarised in monthly reports for the local fire and rescue service.

10. There are existing LOLER regulations (Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations (1998), which provide for maintenance, inspection and examinations of passenger lifts. These must be risk-assessed and never done less frequently than every six months.

11. We are concerned about two aspects of a more frequent inspection regime:

a. More frequent inspections will mean more costs for leaseholders, which will get reflected in service charges.

b. The requirement to submit monthly reports to the local fire and rescue service is going to lead to a lot more paperwork that fire and rescue services may not be resourced to deal with.

12. It is also not clear from the Bill, what purposes the monthly reports will be put to? What duties will fire and rescue services be under to review, raise enquiries about, and store such reports? Will they be given additional resource?

June 2020

 

Prepared 26th June 2020