Freeholder requiring fire door replacement at cost of £2000 +

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    Freeholder requiring fire door replacement at cost of £2000 +

    I own a leasehold ex-local authority flat. My freeholder is the city council.

    I have received a letter from the council's Property Division stating that following a recent fire risk assessment the front doors to the flats in the block have been found to be non-compliant with current standards. They offer two options to leaseholders:

    1) The leaseholder arranges for their front door and frame to be replaced by a FIRAS-registered contractor. Council require evidence of contractor's FIRAS registration, asbestos awareness training, registration of ASFP/FPA/equivalent, third-party training certification for both fire stopping and fire door installation as well as their method statement and risk assessment prior to the commencement of any work. On completion they will inspect and, if satisfied, sign off and will charge the leaseholder the sum of £341 for carrying out these checks.

    2) The council arranges the work and charges the leaseholder £2043.48 inc VAT for doing so. Further costs may apply e.g. diverting cabling through the frame, if there is any, at a cost of £220.50.

    They provide a specification for the door which runs to half a page of A4. Spec includes but is not limited to FD30 with a mimimum of 3 x BS EN1935 hinges, intumescent seals, letter plate and door viewer, fitted with one of a limited number of specified closers, and compliant with PAS24 and Secure by Design.

    I am not averse to replacing the door with one that is compliant and would happily leave it to the council to arrange if they proposed to do this cost effectively, but the quoted costs seem grossly excessive to me. Does the council, as freeholder, have the authority to make all these demands and impose these charges? Compliance with regulations is one thing, but this seems to go far beyond.

    The lease doesn't explicitly state who owns the front door, although it lists maintenance/compliance items which the freeholder has the right to do (and charge for), and this includes fire doors.
    There is a fine line between irony and stupidity. If I say something absurd please assume that I am being facetious.

    #2
    I think you signed a blank cheque when you bought a council flat.

    I think you might as well just pay up, as they're bound to find fault with any alternative you suggest. Take some comfort that the tax man is paying £800 of it.
    To save them chiming in, JPKeates, Theartfullodger, Boletus, Mindthegap, Macromia, Holy Cow & Ted.E.Bear think the opposite of me on almost every subject.

    Comment


      #3
      Hope not.

      I will try to discuss with council next week. My current view, from doing a bit of reading, is that they may be creating a requirement which doesn't exist.

      Council has cited the fire risk assessment and recent government guidance on fire safety dated 20 January 2020 in its letter. However, that guidance states (in Annex A – Advice for Building Owners on assurance and assessment of flat entrance fire doors) that for existing doors, reference should be made to ‘Fire Safety in purpose-built blocks of flats' from 2011. In other words the new guidance does not bring in new requirements for existing doors.

      That 2011 document includes a pertinent case study in Appendix 7 which seems very a very similar case to the block my property is in. In this case study it was concluded that replacement of existing doors was not required. "It was not considered reasonably practicable to bring the block into line with current benchmark standards. Account was taken of the good standard of compartmentation, including the lack of any common extract ventilation from flats.".

      In the government guidance I have not yet seen any reference to the use of a FIRAS-registered contractor being a requirement.

      As an aside, it also occurs to me that the council's letter is presumably a Section 20 notice. It does not provide, or refer to, three estimates for the proposed work.

      https://assets.publishing.service.go...nuary_2020.pdf

      http://www.local.gov.uk/fire-safety-purpose-built-flats
      There is a fine line between irony and stupidity. If I say something absurd please assume that I am being facetious.

      Comment


        #4
        I have spoken to the freeholder about this. One development is that they say that the front door in question belongs to me. I wouldn't disagree, based on the lease. Therefore this is not a Section 20 consultation.

        This is an odd situation in that freeholder is responsible for fire safety in the building, but the door in question is mine.

        It is not clear to me that the freeholder has the right to make all the demands that they are making. Presumably the obligation to comply with regulations is mine. This may or may not require replacing the door, based on my reading of the relevant documentation. I don't see what legislation or contract would compel me, for instance, to provide my chosen contractor's Method Statement to the freeholder before doing any work. This appears to be something they made up. It is not in the fire safety regulations.

        I spoke to LEASE today who have not really been much help so far, unfortunately. For instance they explained why the freeholder would 'want' to satisfy themselves of the quality of the work, which is self evident, without clearly demonstrating much knowledge on the extent of the freeholder's rights in this situation, or my obligations as leaseholder.
        There is a fine line between irony and stupidity. If I say something absurd please assume that I am being facetious.

        Comment


          #5
          My advice remains the same, I'm afraid. I suspect fighting this will cost you more than just paying up.
          To save them chiming in, JPKeates, Theartfullodger, Boletus, Mindthegap, Macromia, Holy Cow & Ted.E.Bear think the opposite of me on almost every subject.

          Comment


            #6
            Maybe. But seems to me that FH is substantially overstepping its boundaries here. I intend to push back to the extent possible.
            There is a fine line between irony and stupidity. If I say something absurd please assume that I am being facetious.

            Comment


              #7
              That is a lot of money for a fire door! A nice looking one is about £80. If you needed a new frame which is doubtful that is £75. Hinges and strips are cheap. You could use your current letter opening and door viewer. Door closers maybe £50 even for an expensive one. You may find your council uses outside contractors for all this sort of work and its an absolute rip off. Southampton uses Balfour Beaty. Everything is top price to residents. Drop curb used to be £800 with council. Now £2500. My advice do it yourself!!!

              Comment


                #8
                Thanks David. I asked FH how they justified the quoted cost and they said in part it was due to a 'very expensive tender process'. To which I would tend to respond 'Your tender process is not my fault'.

                I could get one fitted for something of the order of £250. That is a quote for just a door, so a door set would presumably be a bit more - but no doubt far short of £2k.

                I am inclined to get it sorted myself but my lingering concern is that FH could reject it and say "this does not meet our requirements". As far as I can see, their requirements are largely irrelevant and what matters is the law. However, LEASE have done very little to assuage my concerns on this.

                Using a FIRAS-registered contractor as the FH dictates narrows the field to two in the same city as the flat, and a handful if the radius is expanded to 20 miles or so.
                There is a fine line between irony and stupidity. If I say something absurd please assume that I am being facetious.

                Comment


                  #9
                  Unfortunate, the world of fire Safety has gone mad in recent years. The problem is people who know nothing are asking owners to do work that doesn't need doing. Of course the doors are non-compliant with the current standards, but that doesn't mean you need to replace them. If you have read the Purpose Built flats guide then quote it to the council. Don't be scared of them they probably know no more than you do.

                  Firstly, ask to see a copy of the FRA, who did it and what are their qualifications? Ask what is wrong with the current doors and why they are non-compliant. What doors are they installing? £2000 is extortionate. I worked for a large housing provider who paid £830 for a fully compliant installed door and £230 to upgrade existing with strips/seals overhead self-closer, three hinges and a fire rated letterplate.

                  Comment


                    #10
                    I have recently challenged my Council F/H on same issue, albeit communal entry door, as I paid for my front door couple years ago (bty £600). I noted that the quality was not as good as the original doors which were in perfect condition after 50 years! Also questioned why a sample couldn'y be taken from one door and tested which would be far cheaper than replacing all! Was told it was down to me to provide evidence it met FD30 and smoke standards but I think it should be the LA to prove...

                    So I questioned on exactly what legal basis the F/H thought the work was necessary. Would be keen to hear form anyone else on this point. Are upgrades to Building Control Standards not improvements to the block? Even Decent Homes works. Where are they justified anywhere by law?

                    Sadly the Council's are mostly crooks when it comes to major works. Long Term Agreements LTA's make the process even worse and with minimal clarity!

                    Comment


                      #11
                      Thanks Fire Risk Assessor and Nelly30. Useful input.

                      I have asked for the FRA, which has been promised. I have enquired about the decision-making process here, since my understanding of the guidelines is that an existing 30-minute fire door in most cases is not recommended for replacement. Freeholder's response is that they/we don't know that it is a 30-minute fire door. I presume this is accurate. I certainly couldn't specify - it came with flat when I bought it.

                      I have enquired as to what legislation, regulation or contract entitles them to specify e.g. the colour of my door, which forms part of my demised property.

                      I also get the sense that this is being implemented as a default option on a 'guilty until proven innocent' basis. I was told by FH this morning that since there are 6000 such doors across the city they do not consider it practical to assess them individually. But doing so would seem more efficient to me than just replacing them all at a cost of £12 million +.
                      There is a fine line between irony and stupidity. If I say something absurd please assume that I am being facetious.

                      Comment


                        #12
                        Regarding the requirement for FIRAS registration and various other certifications being demanded in this case, I found this explanation of requirements on the website of a company that specialises in fire safety:

                        "Another question frequently received is whether or not certified tradesmen must be employed to work on a fire door, whether for installation, modification, or maintenance.

                        The short answer is: no, certification is not required for a person to work on a fire door. However, we recommend that only competent craftsmen are used for these works.

                        Legislation, building regulations, and the relevant Standards all require – if anything – that the worker be competent for the job they are doing. The HSE defines competence as “the combination of training, skills, experience and knowledge that a person has and their ability to apply them to perform a task safely.” While this definition does point to training, it does not specify the training be formal or result in any certification or qualification.

                        In the eyes of the law, the premises’ Responsible Person must ensure the competence of any workers to the best of their ability. This can involve demanding that only qualified and certified workers are employed, but it can also simply be picking a local carpentry company because they are the only one with customer testimonials on their website which relate to work on fire doors. As long as the Responsible Person can prove – in court, to their insurers, etc. – that they have ascertained competence then the worker becomes liable for any issues with the work."
                        There is a fine line between irony and stupidity. If I say something absurd please assume that I am being facetious.

                        Comment


                          #13
                          Originally posted by doobrey View Post
                          There are 6000 such doors across the city they do not consider it practical to assess them individually. But doing so would seem more efficient to me than just replacing them all at a cost of £12 million +.
                          I would suggest as tax payer they have a duty to assess them. It isn't difficult to assess a door for a qualified fire risk assessor.

                          London Fire Brigade offer some decent advice, they don't seem to think it necessary to change doors.

                          https://www.london-fire.gov.uk/safet...nt/fire-doors/

                          Comment


                            #14
                            Originally posted by Fire Risk Assessor View Post
                            I would suggest as tax payer they have a duty to assess them. It isn't difficult to assess a door for a qualified fire risk assessor.
                            I would agree.


                            By way of an update on this issue, I sent FH an email in early June, which among other things asked for an explanation for the legal basis of the demands being made (i.e. that I replace my door to their specification and pay for their supervision). There is nothing in legislation or in my lease that requires this as far as I can see.

                            More than two months later I have received no response.
                            There is a fine line between irony and stupidity. If I say something absurd please assume that I am being facetious.

                            Comment


                              #15
                              Originally posted by doobrey View Post
                              More than two months later I have received no response.
                              I'd try making a Freedom of Information request to your Local Council asking to see their information and assessors guidance on when and how they should assess if an existing fire door needs to be replaced, and their information/guidance on how they should then proceed if replacement is deemed to be necessary.

                              Keep it in general terms, they don't have to release personal data/information. So don't mention your lease or particular dispute.
                              (Requesting personal stuff would be a 'Right of Access' request under Data Protection/GDPR).

                              It is a legal requirement for them to reply to FoI's within 20 working days, or explain which legal exemption they are using not to supply the information (If it exists).
                              If they don't reply, or unresonably refuse to release the information, then you report them to the ICO who can order them to comply and release the information.

                              You need to word FoI's carefully, they don't have to answer qeustions or create new information, but (with a few legal exceptions) they do have to provide copies of existing documents.
                              Oh, and you have to use a real name, or at least a name that looks real. They can refuse a request if you don't.

                              You can make an FoI yourself by email, but many find it easier to use 'Whatdotheyknow' to make FoI requests, (I use it frequently), they have a good Help section on how to go about it.
                              Requests made through 'Whatdotheyknow' will often get quicker attention as they know they are in public view.

                              If you haven't made an FoI before then try reading some of the successful, and some of the refused, FoI's already there to see what wording works and what doesn't.
                              https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/help/requesting

                              Comment

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