What You Need to Know About Fire Safety In Commercial Properties

In association with a number of tragic events that have occurred in London, the issues linked to fire-safety has become an important issue for many people. When it comes to the commercial properties the Regulatory Reform is also known as Fire Safety Order 2005, sets out the relevant obligations. In this article common problematic areas are highlighted during the property transactions that surround the Order, and also suggests solutions that are practical.

Who Do These Duties Apply To?

These duties will lie with a “responsible person” which will either be the employer of the work-place or the individual that controls this premises, which is linked to the undertaking of this person of business, trade or any other undertaking.

It is sometimes difficult to decide on who has the “control” of the premises when it comes to leasehold properties. The government guidance has suggested that this can often both be a tenant and the landlord, especially where the repairing responsibilities are split or where a tenant occupies a part. In addition, when the landlord surrenders or forfeits the lease, they also take back the control of the property and therefore become the person that is responsible. If there happen to be common parts like in shopping centres, it is usual for the management company or the landlord to hold responsibilities for these specific parts, with the tenants holding responsibilities for their unit. Tenants and landlords should, for this reason, ensure that it has been made clear who holds the responsibilities for the purpose of the Order.

Specific Duties

Regulation 9: Duties to carry out risk assessments

Problem 1 – the Order is not specific about what the risk assessments should involve

The responsible individual has to make a sufficient and suitable assessment of risks that the relevant persons are exposed to. This duty is not prescriptively particular, which instead puts the onus on a responsible individual to make their own decision on what is sufficient and suitable, according to the nature associated with a property, the company or any other types of relevant factors. This may result in issues with property transactions because a potential purchaser or tenant will be expecting to see copies of the risk assessment and the failure to produce one might cause delays if the tenant or purchaser insists on obtaining a copy before they will take the property. In addition, as the majority of the leases insist that tenants are responsible for the “statutory compliance”, the obligation will fall on a tenant who may overlook this compliance or not know how they should comply with this.

Whoever the onus falls on, getting private companies like TPT Fire to review the fire safety of the building is always recommended.

What Are You Able To Do?

There are no criteria that are definitive for a sufficient and suitable risk assessment, yet here is a list of Government guidance.

– Identify hazards

– Identify the people that are at risk

– Evaluate, reduce or remove the risks

– Record findings, and provide training and prepare emergency plans

– Update and review fire-risks assessments on a regular basis,

– Compliance is also known as “personal” obligation in the way that when the property has changed hands, the responsibilities to address risk assessments will fall on a new occupier or owner. Previous risk assessments will not automatically pass with a property.

Problem 2 – Making alterations to the property often trigger a review of the risk assessment

There are no specified time frames for replacement or renewal of the risk assessment, while the Order will instead refer to certain “triggers.” One of these triggers is when material changes have been made to a property.

What Are You Able To Do?

Become aware of the different “triggers” for reviews of an assessment. Think about whether alterations will affect the risk assessment. Even the simple act of inserting partitioning might affect an assessment when proposed escape routes are now regarded as no-longer suitable.

Regulation 14: Duty to make sure that all routes to the emergency exits along with exits themselves are always kept clear all the time.

Potential Issues- Escape routes are onto a third-party land

When an emergency-escape route for the property is under the control of a private third-party or over the land of a private owner, when the route has not been documented properly, the third-party might alter or block the route, which makes it unsuitable, as well as placing a responsible person “in breach” of his or her duty.

What Are You Able To Do?

The rights to utilise any third-party property for escape routes have to be documented properly. However, the landlord or sellers will in most cases place the onus on a tenant or purchaser to inspect or make up their own mind about this property. The purchaser or tenant will need to make sure they have inspected before the completion in order to gain an understanding of the escape routes and then let their solicitor know to ensure that the appropriate rights will be obtained when necessary or an alternative escape route will need to be negotiated on.