Fire Risk Assessment - Flat Front doors

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    Fire Risk Assessment - Flat Front doors

    Any feedback on this thorny issue would be very gratefully received. Apologies for the length of the post but wanted to give as full a picture as possible:

    Resident Management Company needs to do fire risk assessment on common areas for building containing 30 flats. This essentially consists of 5 hallways and stairwells, so a simple setup. These purpose built flats were built mid-1960s and the flat front doors open directly onto the single stairwell in each block (6 flats per block).

    We plan to do the FRA ourselves using the Local Govt Assoc. "Fire safety in purpose-built blocks of flats" as our main reference. It is clear from this and a number of other sources that our flat front doors should be fire/smoke resistant.

    I've only become a director recently and let's just say the RMC has been run quite "casually" for a long time. Most flat front doors have been replaced over the years, the vast majority being uPVC with glass. These will not be of the required fire resistance I'm sure.

    We do have a couple of original front doors in the building which are solid wood with reinforced glass and wooden frames, which would have conformed to the fire standards of their time (don't yet know if they still have self-closers). I understand these still will be acceptable IF in good condition and unaltered.

    So the problem is that we have a large number of non-compliant replacement flat front doors, many replaced decades ago by past owners long gone.

    The Lease is pretty useless and does not specifically mention responsibility for doors ("doors" never mentioned). It does say the RMC is responsible for maintaining the exterior of the flat including ... roof, walls, timbers. Not sure if "timbers" = doors(?). Anyway there is a more useful clause that states that any internal or external changes need to be approved in writing by the RMC. Speaking to previous directors this approval hasn't happened for doors and residents have just done their own thing (sometimes even verbally given the go ahead by past directors!).

    A large number of leases have been extended over the last 5 years from 99 to 999 years (not sure if this may be seen as acceptance of any alterations by the RMC somehow?).

    So one option is to write to the residents (including myself) saying that if they cannot prove their replacement door conforms to FDS30 standard (mine doesn't) they should look to upgrade it in the next two years. This time period came from an informal chat with a local authority fire and rescue service inspector. The killer is that he also indicated that despite all this he thought it unlikely that any prosecutions would be brought against any residents refusing to upgrade. Presumably this is based on risk and priority calls made by the fire and rescue service. I should try and get their advice in writing I suppose.

    Unfortunately I can foresee a "war" starting with many residents/shareholders when asked to spend £££s replacing their nice double-glazed doors which they have either inherited or spent out on relatively recently. We'd want to avoid the unfairness of some residents replacing doors and others not. I wouldn't relish trying to enforce by breach of the lease for unauthorised alterations, some going back tens of years. If the fire authority won't enforce either it begs the question how risky is the current situation.

    Still thinking through options but if anyone out there has experience in this area I'd be grateful to hear back, Thanks

    #2
    I've had a similar situation after using a professional FRA company and was advised to inform individual residents to check that their own flat doors were compliant , I don't think they can be forced to change them and doubt the original doors would meet current standards.
    Best notify the insurers of the position - I have simply said that we are unable to ascertain if they comply. Hope that helps.

    Comment


      #3
      Thanks 20z ... the insurance implications angle is definitely worth following up

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        #4
        Are you sure there is no clause requiring compliance with national laws?

        This is another example where the law is falling into disrepute because the government won't fund enforcement. Unfortunately, people will probably only get prosecuted if there is a fatal fire that escapes from a flat with an illegal door.

        You should maybe point out to the leaseholders that they are committing a criminal offence by failing to cooperate with fire safety measures. Replacing the doors was a criminal offence, in the first place, but there is a time limit of 2 years on prosecution for building control offences (the current offence is a fire safety one, not a building control one). You could see if you could get building control to record unauthorised work, which may come back to bite them when they try to sell.

        1960s front doors are unlikely to have ever had acceptable closers, and are most likely to have used rising butt hinges.

        You really need to inspect all the doors (and continue to do so, as people often remove closers once the they have been initially approved). Surely the lease allows you to do this.

        Comment


          #5
          Thanks LH64. There is a clause to the effect that statutory provisions made by any regulatory authority or contained in any insurance policy must be observed. As with the no alterations without permission clause the breach may have occurred 20+ years ago by long departed (sometimes of this world) owners. I'm not clear what complications this would bring into any enforcement of the lease and as mentioned this option is not something I would relish to say the least.

          I can easily check on the existing 1960s flat door mechanisms. We do have some identical doors as rear exit doors from the building and these do have self-closers. The much more widespread problem though is with non-compliant replacement doors.

          I should point out that any pushing back or simply ignoring the need to replace doors is currently hypothetical as we've not yet raised this with the residents. Given the numbers involved though I'd be amazed if everyone plays ball.

          My preferred approach would be to put the onus on the leaseholders to provide evidence that their replacement door does comply. We can give guidance on ways of doing this of course.

          I note your point that all leaseholders have an individual responsibility to conform to fire regulations (enforced or not).

          Comment


            #6
            My blocks just arranged for all the doors to be upgraded at a discount by the same firm at the same time. One block had enough in the kitty to fund this, and another block asked for a small contribution. There was an option at lower cost to modify older doors. Isn't that more sensible?

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              #7
              Thanks JK0 - clubbing together makes sense and perhaps the RMC could facilitate this. Spending the service charge kitty to remediate this problem caused by individual leaseholder actions (albeit perhaps informally and incorrectly advised by the RMC at the time) is not where I want to go in the first instance.

              Comment


                #8
                Firstly, I suggest you would be well advised to deploy the services of a professional fire risk assessor to conduct a fire risk assessment. You may find the doors do comply.

                Secondly, it is likely the external doors are the responsibility of the freeholder (so RMC in this case). Even if the doors were demised to the flats it would not necessarily obviate the RMC’s liability in respect of fire risk. It is the responsibility of all entities and persons with control. See the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005.

                You will likely need to commence a section 20 consultation to replace all doors that do not comply. It might be there is justification replace all doors at the same time. All leaseholders will be required to pay a proportion of costs as determined by the leases.

                You can try but legally you cannot delegate your accountability in respect of fire risk even if leaseholders agree to take responsibility for their own doors. The wisest move is to do your job to the letter to protect residents and directors of the RMC.

                With regard to breaches of lease in relation to doors it would appear from your post a) too much time elapsed for the RMC to take action as it has not done so up until now; b) a lease extension has the effect of surrendering the old lease and granting a new lease. Any 'breaches' that existed at that time can no longer be pursued.

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                  #9
                  PVC doors that would comply are specialist products. I think you can safely assume that PVC ones, particularly glazed ones, are building regulation breaches, not just not up to FRA standards.

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                    #10
                    The essential thing is to maintain the 'Protected Fire Escape Route'.

                    If the doors are not fire rated you are all at risk and probably breaking the law too.

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                      #11
                      Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 – see Article 3(1)(b).

                      Comment


                        #12
                        Thanks for the useful feedback:

                        LH64 - Correct; Rehau for example, offer a uPVC fire door. The uPVC doors we have are "bog standard" and won't be compliant.

                        vmart - I'm not totally sure what point you were making about trying to delegate responsibility/accountability. Obviously there may be limits to what the RMC can do:

                        Extract from LGA Fire safety in purpose-built blocks of flats - Section 28 Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005:

                        28.5 Other than any part of the block that is a workplace, the responsibilities and duties imposed are limited to matters over which the person has control. Sometimes, flat entrance doors may be outside the control of a freeholder. For example, often, under each resident’s lease, the door is legally part of the demised premises and so responsibility for maintenance of the flat entrance door rests with the resident. The landlord has no legal right to force a tenant to upgrade the door to the current standard, nor to carry out the works unilaterally. However, in case of impasse, a landlord should refer the matter to the relevant enforcing authority.

                        You did confirm my fear about lease extension wiping the slate clean for breaches for unauthorised alterations. The clause relating to leaseholders needing to observe statutory regulations would continue to apply.

                        Anyway responsibility to replace inadequate doors is probably a moot point as the vast majority of residents/shareholders will probably be impacted. It makes sense now to tackle this problem at the RMC level.

                        Comment


                          #13
                          Posted by OP:
                          “The Lease is pretty useless and does not specifically mention responsibility for doors ("doors" never mentioned). It does say the RMC is responsible for maintaining the exterior of the flat including ... roof, walls, timbers. Not sure if "timbers" = doors(?). Anyway there is a more useful clause that states that any internal or external changes need to be approved in writing by the RMC. Speaking to previous directors this approval hasn't happened for doors and residents have just done their own thing (sometimes even verbally given the go ahead by past directors!).”

                          Comment vmart:
                          From the information you provided in your post, your leases DO NOT demise the front doors to the flats. Given this they are almost definitely the landlord’s responsibility as indicated by the part clause you posted above.

                          Anyway, it looks as though the RMC are planning to manage the situation: well done.

                          Comment

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