Fire safety in commercial buildings is mainly regulated by the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005. This sets out a number of obligations to be complied with by the ‘responsible person’ or ‘duty holder’-including the requirement to carry out a fire risk assessment.
Working out who the responsible person or duty holder is can be tricky- and sometimes there is more than one such person under the regulations. In a workplace, the responsible person would be the employer and any other person who may have control of the property (e.g. the owner or occupier). Where there is not a ‘workplace’, the responsible person will be the person with control of the premises; otherwise, the owner. A duty holder would be anyone who has responsible for the maintenance or repair or safety of the premises themselves or anything at them.
Where commercial properties have been leased it is very often the tenant who would be the responsible person as they have ‘control’ of the premises let to them. They would also usually be responsible under the terms of the lease for compliance with all statutory obligations relating to the premises let to them.
However, there is often a split responsibility between a landlord and a tenant. For example, where a tenant leases just part of a building they will be responsible for the premises let to them but the landlord would be responsible for the remainder of the building, including any common parts. It’s also important for landlord’s to be aware that the responsibility for compliance would revert back to them when the lease ends.
Essentially, the regulations require the responsible person to comply with various ‘duties’. The main ones are:
A fire risk assessment entails a full review of the property to identify any fire risks. It then sets out recommendations and action points to minimise the fire risk and to aim to keep people safe. The fire risk assessment should be recorded in writing and regularly reviewed and updated.
There is no legal requirement for someone qualified in fire safety to carry out the fire risk assessment- so property owners could do it themselves if they feel competent to do so. However given the risks involved, and the legal duty of the responsible person, clearly most would instruct an expert. The government recommends that the person carrying out the fire risk assessment is properly certified to do so- there are registers of individuals or companies available online.
Compliance with the fire regulations is usually dealt with by the local fire and rescue authority. They have the power to issue various notices:
Failure to comply with the regulations or a notice could result in a fine or imprisonment.
In the vast majority of cases, compliance with fire regulations will be condition of a buildings insurance policy – so non-compliance could invalidate the policy.
If you need any advice on fire risk assessments, please contact a member of our commercial property law team in confidence here or on 02920 829 100 for a free initial call to see how they can help.
To speak to one of our experts today, please contact us on 02920 829 100 or by using our Contact Us form for a free initial chat to see how we can help.
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