Service charges set to increase as flat owners have to pay for fire door inspections
Following the recent parliamentary wrangling over who should pay for cladding remediation, it may have escaped leaseholders’ notice that the new Fire Safety Act includes new rules on front doors.
In the past, flat front doors were “demised” to the resident. Or in other words they were the responsibility of the flat owner and, for the purposes of the fire safety regulations, they weren’t included in the common parts of the building overseen by the property manager. That has now changed.
The new Act has amended the existing fire safety rules set out in the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 [FSO] to cover not only “the external walls of the building, including cladding” but also “fire doors for domestic premises of multiple occupancy”.
What this means for flat owners is that if your front door doesn’t meet the required standard, you must replace it with one that does. This is because flat front doors play a key role in compartmentation – or in other words they will help prevent a fire spreading from your flat to others in your block. So if your door doesn’t provide the right level of protection, your floor or even the whole block could be at risk.
At a minimum, all doors should provide half an hour of fire protection and be self-closing. They should also be fitted with intumescent strips and cold smoke seals. Some buildings may require doors to provide more than 30 minutes of fire resistance but where this is the case, it will be made clear by your building manager.
As a result of the new Fire Safety Act that passed into law at the end of April, managing agents now have to arrange regular fire door inspections. For residents, this means giving them access to your front door – from the inside too to ensure it fits correctly and the self-closer works.
‘Regular’ is not defined, however general guidance suggests every six months, which is backed up by the London Fire Brigade, who recommend that all fire doors are inspected every six months.
While regular fire door inspections, including of front doors, are a sensible policy, the actual complication, which will result in higher costs for flat owners, is that managing agents now have to try and arrange for a contractor to inspect all fire doors.
We do hope that the government now starts an education campaign so that people understand and cooperate, as the cost of failed fire door inspections, repeat visits and coordination will undoubtedly put service charge costs up. Does this mean more hassle for residents? Yes, quite possibly. Will it mean you are safer in your home? We certainly hope so.
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