Fire safety after the Grenfell fire – what property owners and developers need to know
The disaster at the Grenfell Tower in west London, which left so many dead or missing and is now the subject of a public enquiry, has been a wakeup call for landlords to review their fire safety practices.
Failure to comply with the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order (2005) (the FSO) is a criminal offence and landlords, developers and agents should also be aware of their legal obligations and responsibilities in relation to residential buildings.
Responsibility for compliance under the legislation falls on the ‘responsible person’ – that could be the owner, landlord, manager or agent. The responsible person is required to undertake suitable and sufficient Fire Risk Assessments.
These must identify fire hazards and those at risk, and highlight what can be done to minimise the threat or spread of fire and the potential consequences. There is no set format, but advice from suitably qualified and experienced professionals is strongly recommended. The assessment should also be regularly reviewed.
A working smoke alarm should be installed on each storey and a carbon monoxide alarm in any room with a fuel burning appliance. Other obligations include ensuring there is an evacuation plan and assembly point, clearly indicated by signs. We recommend you carry out regular electrical safety checks and enforce non-smoking policies.
One of the issues being considered following the Grenfell Tower fire is the suitability of the materials used in constructing the building. Developers need to consider the material used, in case they breach the Building Regulations 2016.
Part B of the regulations require buildings to be designed with an appropriate means of escape in case of a fire. Developers must also ensure the internal linings of dividing walls are of a material which resists the spread of flames and releases heat slowly. New buildings should be designed to remain stable for a reasonable period in the event of fire.