Are leaseholders of apartments being exposed by their appointed FM provider?
Part 1 of 2 Fire.
Speaking very much from recent experiences it has got us thinking about how many blocks of apartments are being managed by a facility manager (FM) who is not considering the duties placed upon the leaseholders by various health and safety related legislation.
To start at the beginning; the tenants of large apartment complexes tend to appoint a small board of directors to administer the day to day management of the premises via a Special Purpose Vehicle. The directors will then appoint an FM business to engage specialist trade contractors to undertake reactive and planned maintenance tasks. Generally this is any work to the common areas i.e. not to individual apartments. Such works include lift servicing and maintenance, cleaning, window cleaning, servicing of active fire items, waste management, gardening etc.
During a recent visit to a large block of luxury apartments we identified numerous health and safety issues that could have major consequences for innocent leaseholders.
For example the existing Fire Risk Assessment (FRA) was dated 2016 and within the FRA numerous corrective actions were identified. However none of the recommendations in the FRA had been rectified. Examples included:
• No smoke seals to the main access door leading to the internal waste/recycling facility, which is deemed a high risk area.
• Recommendations that in the event of a fire the occupants should remain in their apartments, rather than try to escape. However, his fire strategy is flawed as the fire notices around the building name a specific external muster point where occupiers should gather in the case of the fire alarm being activated.
Furthermore there was clear evidence that many fire doors in the building have had their closers replaced. However the replacement closers are smaller than the original ones and so there are now exposed empty screw holes in the fire doors. These screw holes should have been filled with intumescent paste in order to maintain the integrity of the fire doors.
The concern here is that, in the event of a fire, the insurers would ask to see the FRA as part of their Fire Investigation Report (FIR). The insurers will be looking for loopholes in the document, and the fact that no smoke seals were in place to the bin store may result in a refusal to pay out.
Likewise the failure to maintain the fire doors in good condition may nullify any claim following a FIR.
It is important that all leaseholders are aware that if the insurers refuse to pay out due to negligence then the cost of the damage, including any necessary building works will be their responsibility. Depending on the scale of the fire such costs could run into millions of pounds.
If you are concerned about your exposure as a leaseholder please contact Andy Newsham on 07850 702194, 01904 691515 or firstname.lastname@example.org