After the Grenfell Tower tragedy last year, the government issued a full enquiry to discover the cause(s) of the fire. This enquiry found that the smoke ventilation system was reported to have failed eight days before the fire began. A proposal to fix it was also ignored in this time. This raises questions over who is responsible for providing smoke ventilation in buildings. So we’ve decided to look into the issue to clear things up a bit.
Who is responsible for smoke ventilation in tower blocks and purpose-built blocks of flats?
In a tower block or purpose-built block of flats, the residents (tenants and leaseholders) are responsible for making sure their flats have appropriate fire detection, usually in the form of smoke detectors. It is also the tenant’s responsibility to ensure they are in working order.
In the common areas of these buildings (stairwells and corridors), a landlord or managing agent is usually responsible for fire safety. In certain cases, however, a member of the Resident’s Association will hold this responsibility. Regardless of who it is, they will be designated the ‘Responsible Person’ for fire safety in these areas.
The role of the ‘Responsible Person’
According to the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005, the ‘Responsible Person’ must ensure that the premises, facilities, equipment and any devices for use by or for the protection of firefighters and relevant persons, are subject to a suitable system of maintenance and are maintained in an efficient state, in efficient working order and in good repair.
It also states that it is an offence for any ‘Responsible Person’ or any other person with control of the premises, to fail to comply, where that failure places one or more relevant persons at risk of death or serious injury in the case of fire. In the UK, a smoke ventilation system is a legal requirement for all multi-storey occupancy buildings. Therefore, this document suggests that the ‘Responsible Person’ has a legal duty of care to ensure smoke control systems are in working order.
However, this is not to say that the ‘Responsible Person’ should perform the maintenance themselves. Smoke control systems should only be maintained by a competent person with specialist knowledge and training on the particular system that is installed.
Are landlords responsible for smoke ventilation?
Since October 2015, landlords are required by law to install working smoke and carbon monoxide alarms in their properties. Carbon monoxide alarms must be fitted in rooms where a solid fuel heating system is present. Also, a smoke alarm must be installed on each floor of the property. Testing them, however, is the tenant’s responsibility. As smoke ventilation systems are not usually required in single occupancy buildings, the likelihood is that most landlords do not have a legal duty of care to provide smoke ventilation.
Motorized window openers and smoke ventilation systems from Teal Products
Teal Products supply motorized window openers and a variety of smoke and natural ventilation systems for use in residential and commercial environments. For more information, call 01242 620318 or contact us online.
Teal Products are not property lawyers so for information on up-to-date legal procedures regarding smoke ventilation, you should contact the appropriate authority.
Information correct as of 30/11/18