Fire Doors: Changing Rules and Greater Obligations

Bexley Beaumont Partner Matthew Wayman writes that the Grenfell fire disaster has rightly led to a tightening up of regulations relating to the safety of people living in multi-occupancy properties. Yet he describes how some property businesses have admitted finding it difficult to keep up-to-date with rule changes, despite the importance of doing so for themselves and their residents.

Just over six years ago, the UK suffered its worst residential fire tragedy since the end of World War II.

In the 14th of June 2017, a fire broke out in the 24-storey Grenfell Tower in the North Kensington district of London.

By the time that it was extinguished some 60 hours later, 70 people had lost their lives and more than 70 others were injured. Two other individuals died from their injuries during the following months.

Within weeks, the Government had announced a major review of the incident and its implications chaired by the engineer and civil servant Dame Judith Hackitt.

At its heart were twin objectives: the creation of a more exacting regulatory framework and reassurance for residents in multi-occupancy properties - be they high-rise blocks like Grenfell or not - that the buildings in which they live "are safe and remain so".

The introduction of tougher rules was anticipated by all, even before the Hackitt inquiry published its final report in May 2018 (

Yet keeping abreast of every subsequent change is not necessarily easy for those who own, manage, maintain or live in such locations.

However, what happened at Grenfell illustrated only too painfully what consequences - personal and professional - might arise by not adhering to the rules.

Ignorance of any new regulations is not an excuse. There is an obligation on landlords, management agents and developers in particular to be aware of whatever shifts in the legislative landscape might arise.

One notable recent revision relates to fire safety doors.

Whilst attention was piqued when the Fire Safety (England) Regulations 2022 became law in May last year, it's fair to say that it appears at least some of that interest had waned when they took effect at the end of January.

They mean that fire doors should be checked regularly to ensure that they are "in efficient working order and in good repair".

If the assessor carrying out the inspection concludes that improvement, repair or replacement is needed, it is up to the so-called 'Responsible Persons', such as a building owner or managing agent, to determine how that is best done.

This isn't an optional activity.

If any Responsible Person fails to comply with the rules, placing "one or more relevant persons (for example residents, staff or visitors) at risk of death or serious injury in the event of fire" it constitutes a criminal offence, carrying the potential of an unlimited fine and up to two years in prison.

It is, in my opinion, another piece of very vital reassurance for leaseholders but has strings attached.

If an assessor concludes that the doors being checked are faulty, it might reasonably be expected that the owner or even a property developer should put them right.

However, if that same assessor reckons that a door's defective state is down to wear and tear, repairs could be regarded as maintenance - the costs of which are drawn from the service charge paid by residents.

Together with the increased inspection work, that might lead to residents being asked to cough up higher service charges.

Helping navigate clients across the country through these new rules has been an increasing feature of my workload over the last few months.

In particular, I have found myself advising advising on steps which need to be taken if and when remediation is required.

As I have mentioned, the issue of who might be responsible for the costs of putting right any defects is fact-specific.

Owning or managing properties is not necessarily a straightforward business and with further fire safety regulations due to take effect in October, individuals involved in the industry simply cannot fail to keep up-to-date with changes as they occur.

Whether they are large organisations of a size meaning that they are fortunate enough to have in-house lawyers and assessors or smaller companies needing to rely on external support, the requirements - and potential sanctions - are the same.

To discuss any of the above further, please feel free to contact Matthew Wayman:  |  07779 593411