Your queries answered
We are the OMC (owners management company) for a complex of three apartment blocks built in the 1970s. We do not have a certified fire safety system. To reach the advised minimum standard for certification would require considerable financial outlay.
What are our legal responsibilities in this? We believe that we do not have to do anything except manage these existing buildings to the standards applying in the 1970s.
This is a common situation in older multi unit developments where the buildings pre-date the requirement for a fire safety certificate under the Building Control Act of 1990.
Regardless of the age of a building section 18(2) of the Fire Services Act 1981 places a duty of care on people in control of buildings to take all reasonable measures to prevent fires and to ensure, as far as is reasonably practicable, the safety of the occupants in the event of a fire.
Fire safety measures would deal with preventing an outbreak and spread of fire and smoke, and effective evacuation. So compliance requires the installation and maintenance of fire alarm systems, emergency lighting, ventilation systems and fire blocking to ducts and corridors.
As the owners management company is the owner of the building and its common areas, the directors of the OMC would be considered those in control of their multi-unit development.
The introduction of the annual report in the Multi-Unit Developments Act 2011 and the requirement to issue a statement “setting out, in general terms, the fire safety equipment installed in the development and the arrangements in place for the maintenance of such equipment” - brought a new responsibility to directors of OMCs. So now they must aware of the fire safety arrangements and share this with their co-owners.
If there are none, because the building is old and pre-dates such measures, it should act as an impetus for investigating whether such measures are necessary.
The best way to deal with the anomaly referred to in your question, as with most items of significant expenditure in an apartment scheme, is to employ a professional to deal with the issue.
I would recommend a fire safety consultant, chartered building surveyor or consulting engineer with relevant expertise.
They should be tasked with:
* Identifying the fire risks and deficiencies
* Preparing a specification of works
* Project managing the works
Issuing their professional opinion at the conclusion, confirming that the OMC and its board have taken such reasonable measures to prevent fires