Who Pays for Essential Fire Safety Works?
Fire safety is a topic which has rightly received increased attention in recent years. Many residents’ management companies and their managing agents are reviewing their buildings and assessing whether they meet current regulations. Butcher & Barlow LLP’s Alex Sandland examines the law and his recent success in the Tribunal in a claim of this nature.
Fire Safety Regulations
There is rightly heightened attention towards fire safety measures generally within residential multi-storey properties.
The safety of such buildings is governed by the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 which provides that a “responsible person” is required to assess the risks to people in the building from fire and to identify what general fire precautions are required for those particular premises. A responsible person may be a specialist managing agent who is appointed by a residents’ management company.
The responsible person will regularly review the safety of the building and will be required to take precautions including to:
- Ensure that people are safe in the event of a fire.
- Carry out a risk assessment at the premises and keep this under review.
- Make fire safety arrangements at the premises and keep these effective.
- Take measures to equip premises with appropriate fire detection and fire-fighting equipment.
- Ensure that the fire safety equipment and emergency exits at premises are properly maintained.
There are currently proposals to amend the existing fire safety regulations and a Bill is before Parliament.
It is hoped that – if passed into law – these measures will provide welcome clarity for freeholders, leaseholders and management companies in relation to who is required to pay for essential safety works.
The question of who pays for necessary safety works can be a contentious issue for the leaseholders of residential apartments.
We recently made a successful application on behalf of a residents’ management company to the First-tier Tribunal for a declaration as to who was responsible to pay service charges in relation to the costs of fire precaution measures on a substantial multi-storey property.
In this case, the leaseholders agreed that the safety measures were necessary for the benefit of all occupiers, but the issue was in relation to how the costs would be apportioned under the leases.
The Tribunal carefully considered the management company’s application as well as the views of various leaseholders and provided a decision on the correct interpretation of the leases and how the of costs of these essential works were recoverable.
The decision by the Tribunal provides welcome clarity for all of the parties and will allow the management company to complete a programme of safety works at the premises.
At Butcher & Barlow, our specialist Property Dispute Resolution team act for residents’ management companies and residents groups in this niche area including in relation to service charges and Section 20 consultations.