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Issue No. 90 Autumn 2009


Federation of Private Residents’ Associations Newsletter


5


the recommendations within the Fire Risk Assessment Report. We hope this helps, but I would add that the Fire Risk Assessment does not have to be by an expensive contractor, any competent person can do it, and many fi re offi cers will visit and give informal advice for free. If you do it yourself, keep a record.


Q A


Our fl at complex comprises three blocks, each three stories high. Reviewing our fi re risk assessment in accord with the requirements of The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005, we fi nd that we have two or three owners who have now replaced the original 1970s standard plain fl at doors with partially glazed doors. We have ascertained that at least one of these replacement doors is not 30 minute fi re resistant. As we perceive that the greatest risk for fi re spreading to the stairwells is from within the fl ats, can you please advise whether the volunteers that run the management company have the legal authority to insist on the owners changing such doors to units with a fi re resistance rating. We do not have any external fi re escape routes. FPRA Chairman Bob Smytherman replies: This is a very serious and topical subject after the tragedy recently in Camberwell. I would suggest the starting point should be to establish whether, under the terms of your lease, individual lessees are responsible for the maintenance and repair of their own front doors, or whether these are a matter for the management company. If the lease states that the front door is part of the ‘demised premise’, then clearly this a matter for the fl at owner and does not fall within the legislation that you described, although you may want to ‘recommend’ to them in the light of the Camberwell tragedy that they consider replacing the door with at least 30 minutes fi re resistance. If however, the lease states that either the front door is part of the ‘common parts’ or be made to certain standards such as current Building Regulations, then quite clearly under The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 the Directors of your Limited company would be required to take any action you felt appropriate to keep the building safe in the event of a fi re and minimise any risk with regards the ‘means of escape’. I would strongly suggest discussing this matter with your local Fire Service safety adviser and the Building Control department of your local authority who will be able to advise on the required standard for replacement of front doors to the fl ats at your premises.


Q A


We would like to know if we have to install fi re extinguishers in the hallways at our fi ve blocks, which have six fl ats in each one on three fl oors. We also have hall carpet. FPRA Chairman Bob Smytherman replies: We would strongly recommend to our members that fi re extinguishers are NOT provided in common parts of blocks of


fl ats unless you employ a porter or other member of staff that has received the appropriate training on a regular basis. Use of fi re extinguishers by untrained residents or visitors can potentially make any fi re worse than it might have been. The Government has produced a guide to the new law which is available from the Department of Communities and Local Government.


TERRORISM THREAT Q A


Could you give us an informed opinion as to whether it would be advisable to continue including terrorist cover with our building insurance? We started paying for this a couple of years ago and the fee for this part of the insurance has recently increased to about £600, which is a lot of money. Do you know if there is any other way, say from central Government, where we could make a claim should such an unlikely event occur and are we being over cautious in continuing this cover? I am treasurer of 3 blocks of 12 fl ats each (36 in all) in a quiet suburban area of Bristol. FPRA Chairman Bob Smytherman replies: As someone who manages my block we have opted for terrorism cover since this was introduced by insurance companies following the 9/11 attacks in the US. I would always advise continuing with the cover as I do not believe the Government would step in if your block was destroyed in a terrorism attack. I suggest that you get your managing agent/insurance broker to obtain alternative quotes, but from my experience there seems to be little to choose from on this aspect of the policy.


Ultimately the decision to opt for this cover is a matter for your management company, but I would not recommend opting out.


Q


INSURANCE We are in dispute with our Landlord over the insurance element of our service charge and would like advice on the process to follow. The landlord tells us he will proceed to the county court, we assume we raise it with the LTV – or will it be one and the same? We have pretty standard 999-year leases, and the landlord is responsible for arranging insurance. We are contesting the unreasonableness of the insurance premium increase last year which went up three-fold. Through our efforts we have managed to get their broker to reduce this for this year by insisting on alternative quotes, but even this had complications as when we put our broker in touch with the landlord the landlord simply rebuffed him and he received a lot of verbal abuse. Subsequently the quote was withdrawn and their incumbent broker reduced the premium “a bit”. There has been no discussion or consultation with the association over this. We simply feel that the previous premium is unreasonable and are challenging his right to increase it so substantially without consulting us. Your advice please.


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