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5 Impacts on the 2020 Service Charge Post-Grenfell You Have Probably Overlooked

Get in touch with the Authors: Miriam Hanlon and David Hills

 1. LATEST Frequency of Fire Risk Assessments - finally, a definitive timeline for FRA’s?

The recent Government ‘Advice for Buildings Owners’ document, included the following:

‘11.4. Check that a suitable and sufficient fire risk assessment has been carried out within the previous 12 months and that the recommendations within the action plan of the assessment have been completed…’

 

A simple one, but easily overlooked across estates/portfolios. When was your fire risk assessment last reviewed, and how easy and effective is your system that monitors the completion of action plans?

It is also recommended to consider what type of fire risk assessment you are undertaking; residential should be considering moving towards an assessment that considers the "whole building" rather than just the common areas.

 

2. Façades, Cladding and the NEW Mortgage Nightmare

No matter which angle you look at it from, “cladding” is the new dirty word in property - mortgage challenges with AN14 (superseded by new Advice for Building Owners), safety concerns from the government, or simply the public perception of cladding’s impact on their safety

The Government’s advice? Check what you have, and do it now.

According to the new consolidated advice note:

“External walls of residential buildings should not assist the spread of fire, irrespective of height.  It is important therefore to understand both the materials used…and whether the entire system has been designed, installed, and, maintained appropriately.”

 

“The Expert Panel believes the building owners and the wider property and construction industries need to respond more urgently to the safety issues being identified.”
 
 
3. Fire Doors: AUDITS, SURVEYS & INSPECTIONS...confused?

The new consolidated advice also makes clear the actions building owners should take in relation to fire doors, including auditing and assessment. The summary - get doors checked and keep checking on a quarterly basis. 

The issue? The ambiguity of what a fire door audit should consist of and the competence needed to deliver this. Make sure you have the budget assigned for the new scope, and the level of competency required, as the majority of current budgets simply don’t have this accounted for.
 

Owners and Managers need to make sure that they audit:

• The need for fire doors 
• What level of fire door protection is required
• The actual doors 
• The door-sets themselves
 

It is worth taking extra time when appointing a company for this work that has the right competence and a proven track record of delivering such audits - before you embark on selecting an auditor. After all, the rationale you adopt will form part of the evidence you will need to provide should things go wrong.  

 

4. Fire Strategy/Fire Management Plans

Stay Put - ask your tenants on their thoughts regarding Stay Put post-Grenfell, and the answer will most likely be a resounding ‘no thanks’. The approach to fire strategy, and emergency procedures needs to be addressed.

LATEST WRONG APPROACH - misinformation within the industry on the approach to developing fire strategies sees many adopting Approved Document B retrospectively on an existing building, rather than utilising the BS PAS 911 approach, rendering their Fire Strategies as evidence for the prosecution rather than the defence.

The approach to fire strategy and the development of emergency procedures needs to be addressed, especially as for most existing buildings the “golden thread” of information (how the building works and operates) is proving hard to find.

 

 
5. NEW ROLE POST GRENFELL - Building Safety Manager

The new role and scope of a ‘Building Safety Manager’ is expected to be clarified imminently and it will be for the Building Owner to make that appointment - but let’s be honest, it will most likely fall to the property managers. 

However, it will be necessary to ensure that the person fulfilling this role has the relevant skills, knowledge and expertise to assist in discharging the building owners and responsible persons responsibilities. The person employed is also required to be available to residents concerned about safety in the building.

The challenge? This level of competency doesn’t come cheap, and there are currently a limited number of people within the UK with the expected required skill set.

 
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