Costly Fire Protection
Q: We have been sent a quote for fire doors and other fire precaution works. The total being £35,000.00 and two further quotes for £15,000.00 each, for works to be considered (emergency lighting and our flat doors being upgraded) to meet fire door regulations.
Can you advise if this seems a reasonable quote? Would these costs be solely down to us as leaseholders, or does the freeholder have some responsibility in sharing the costs for the works to the common parts?
What is the best way to bring our freeholder/managing agent into line in the way they treat us? They are trying to bully us into paying for major works for our lifts and have not as yet allowed me to take it down the route of an official complaint (they do not have a procedure). I have offered them solutions for us to renegotiate and they have flatly refused to accept any of them, so I am now going down the route of lodging a complaint and hope this will stop them from carrying out the work until we have come to some sort of resolution.
FPRA Chairman Bob Smytherman replies:
A: Having read the extent of the Fire Precaution works I would suggest this should have been the subject of a Section 20 consultation procedure with all leaseholders. Works of this nature would need to judged as ‘reasonable’ and leaseholders should be given an opportunity to seek alternative quotes.
The schedule of works would need to be justified by a Fire Risk Assessment to establish the reasonableness of the proposals which should be made available to all leaseholders , if your residents’ association wants to get a second opinion, then I suggest contacting your local fire service who are the enforcing authority of the Fire Safety Order.
Updates to fire door standards and emergency lighting are perfectly reasonable upgrades to ensure all occupiers can access the ‘means of escape’ safely in the event of a fire and the fire doors will need to be ‘30 minute’ fire door minimum if your block has a ‘stay put’ policy.
Once you have received a copy of the Fire Risk Assessment to establish whether upgrades are ‘reasonable’, I suggest reviewing the proposals against the Guidance for Fire Safety in Blocks of Flats which is available on our website to download.
With regards the cost of such works, the schedule should be competitively tendered and at least two tenders should be provided to each leaseholder and the landlord would need to justify which quote is ‘reasonable’. It may not necessarily be the cheapest but must take account of the Fire Risk Assessment.
Ultimately if you believe the service charges are unreasonable leaseholders individually or collectively can challenge this at the FTT (First Tier Tribunal).
Usually for works such as this scale it would often be reasonable to prioritise in a number of stages to share the cost over a longer period, but this would depend on the urgency identified in the Fire Risk Assessment. The local fire service can assist with this process.
It is certainly good practice for your managing agent to fully communicate this level of expenditure and major works clearly with all leaseholders. If this communication is not satisfactory, then you may wish to consider Right to Manage in future.
It is essential that the managing agent is fully compliant with the terms of the lease If you believe this not to be the case we can arrange our legal advisor to review this for you.
|[Submitted July 2018]|