A property consultancy says it has identified the next “landmine” in the building security saga facing agents and landlords across the country.
Mary-Anne Bowring, chief executive of property consultancy Ringley Group, warns fire door inspections and compartmentalization will be the “next big issue”.
She says that in a bid to correct a series of catastrophic missteps in building safety, new legislation in the form of the Fire Safety Act 2021 introduces new rules regarding the inspection of fire doors, requiring a regular evaluation of exterior walls, flat entrance doors and compartmentalization in common areas of buildings.
But while the law has been criticized for abandoning the duty of care to tenants facing rising remediation costs, Bowring says a neglected amendment to undertake more thorough and invasive fire safety inspections is expected to result in higher service charges at the expense of already financially destitute tenants. Support.
Previously, flat entry doors were “reserved” for the resident. For fire safety reasons, they have not been included in the common areas of the building supervised by the syndic. That has now changed.
The new Act amended the existing fire safety rules set out in the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 [FSO] cover not only “the exterior walls of the building, including the cladding” but also “the fire doors of the multi-occupancy living quarters”.
Tenants face higher service fees and more frequent building security checks, as management officers are now tasked with carrying out these inspections. The costs of having a contractor inspect all common areas and fire doors can also increase if managing agents have to make multiple trips if tenants are away or otherwise prevented from accessing.
Bowring predicts additional costs are also likely to surface in the form of flat compartment inspections high on the agenda of the new building safety regulator. By flat compartmentation, we mean a building or part of a building comprising one or more rooms, spaces or floors constructed to prevent the spread of a fire to or from another part of the same building or an adjoining building.
Although Westminster’s building safety fund will not cover new inspection obligations, the Welsh Government has confirmed that it will cover funding for investigations which go beyond cladding issues to include things such as compartmentalisation ineffective and resistance ratings of FD30-120 fire doors. Julia James, the minister responsible for housing in Wales, has also suggested the package is part of a phased response to fire safety issues that will include a secondary remediation fund.
The expansion of Welsh Government financial support for at-risk tenants represents further disunity in approaches to building safety across the UK.
Bowring says: “Tenants burdened with remediation costs are once again stuck in the minefield of building and fire safety legislation, waiting for the next unresolved problem to explode.
“While it is important that the correct fire doors are installed in all buildings, let alone high-rise buildings, without a more comprehensive commitment to financial support, as we see in Wales, tenants will be forced to bear the costs demanded by stricter inspections Flat compartmentalization, high on the list of priorities for the building safety regulator, will only make the problem worse unless the government steps in to protect those most at risk.
“Managing agents must do all they can to meet these new requirements head-on and must guide vulnerable tenants through an evolving regulatory landscape.”