Following the Grenfell Tower tragedy in 2017, the Government have since introduced the Fire Safety Act 2021 in order to amend the existing legislation, the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005, and ensure a similar tragedy does not recur. This new piece of legislation is based on the recommendations made from the Grenfell Tower Inquiry.
The Fire Safety Act makes clear the duties of the Responsible Person for multi-occupied, residential buildings (i.e. the freeholder, RMC) and their accountability for the management and reduction of the risk of fire, not only for the structure and external walls of the building, but now broadening the scope to also include cladding, balconies and windows, as well as entrance doors to individual flats that open into common parts. In addition to the responsibilities building owners and managers have for the common parts as per the RRO, further responsibilities are now required such as ensuring the regular inspection of the lifts, confirming that evacuation plans are reviewed and updated, checking that fire safety instructions are provided to all residents and making sure that flat entrance doors in buildings, particularly those with unsafe cladding, comply with existing regulations. This legislation can empower fire and rescue authorities to enforce action and hold accountable the homeowners who fail to comply.
How the Fire Safety Act may affect flat entrance doors?
The Fire Safety Act widens the scope of the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order to include the flat entrance doors within the scope of the ‘non-domestic premises’ such as the communal areas of multi-occupied residential buildings. This means that flat entrance doors are now required to be regularly inspected and maintained by a competent person, as with all other fire safety equipment or passive fire protection. In this way, it is ensured that should a fire occur inside a flat, the flat front door will prevent smoke and fire from spreading into the common parts of the building. Flat entrance doors should be self-closing and provide fire resistance for at least 30 minutes.
A typical fire door inspection will usually cover the following points:
- Is the door a fire door, and of an appropriate grade?
- Has the door been damaged or breached in anyway?
- Is a suitable self-closing device fitted?
- Does it shut fully into frame from every angle?
- Are hinges correct in type and number?
- Are suitable smoke seals/intumescent strips fitted?
- Are all door furnishings (letter box etc.) adequately fire resistant?
- Is any glazing fitted within the door of an adequate level of fire resistance (e.g. Georgian wired, or bearing suitable kite marks)?
- Is the frame of the door of an adequate level of fire resistance?
- Does the surround of the door, including any fan lights or adjacent boarding adequately fire resistant?
- Does the door meet current standards, or standards at the time of construction/conversion?
In case that the flat entrance doors do not meet the fire safety standards mentioned above, it is essential that they are replaced.
How often should flat entrance doors be checked?
Under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order, there is no set statutory frequency to the inspections of fire doors that are placed in communal areas. However, their maintenance is a legal requirement and it is expected that doors should be routinely checked, at least annually.
In particular, the maintenance requirements of the Order are the following:
17.—(1) Where necessary in order to safeguard the safety of relevant persons the responsible person must ensure that the premises and any facilities, equipment and devices provided in respect of the premises under this Order ‘…’ are subject to a suitable system of maintenance and are maintained in an efficient state, in efficient working order and in good repair.
Although the order does not set specific timeframes, it holds the responsible person accountable to arrange the assessments as well as any maintenance works that might be required.
The Government through the Fire Safety Act includes flat entrance doors within this requirement.
Who is going to carry out the inspections and who is going to pay for them or for any maintenance works that may be required?
The Fire Safety Act requires that all fire door inspections should be carried out by a competent professional who obtains a recognised qualification (e.g. a Certified Fire Door Inspector through the FDIS) and has the relevant experience in carrying out fire door inspections.
In most cases, the cost of inspection will be paid for from the service charge. As for the cost of any remedial works that might be required, this will depend on who, according to the lease, has maintenance responsibility for the flat entrance door. In most instances, this will be the leaseholder. There may be some cases, however, where the freeholder retains maintenance responsibility for the flat entrance doors.
In some circumstances, it might be beneficial for leaseholders to team together and have all remedial works done as part of one job. This, however, will be highly affected by the type of works that need to be carried out (i.e. some doors might just need a tweak to the self-closers, whilst others might warrant a full replacement of the door set).
At HML, having years of experience in managing fire risk assessments, we can have your fire doors and flat entrance doors inspected by qualified in-house professionals. If you have any questions regarding fire door inspections or any other fire safety issue, please get in touch with your Property Manager or a member of HML’s Health and Safety service provision.