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Fire Certificate

QUESTION: “I understand there have been changes to fire regulations for tenants. I have a fire certificate, but is there anything else I need to do?”

Under the previous legislation if a fire certificate had been issued for an unaltered property you could be confident of compliance with fire standards.

However, fire certificates have been superseded by the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005, which came into force in October 2006. The order imposes a new regime of self assessment, more in line with health and safety regulations. A tenant will be the ‘responsible person’ ensuring compliance of any property under its control – almost certain to include the premises demised by your lease.

A responsible person must ensure that fire risk assessments are carried out and kept under constant review. The basic principle is to reduce the risk and spread of fire, to secure and maintain means of escape and equipment for detecting and fighting fire, and to ensure proper instruction and training of staff. A “competent person(s)” must ensure must be appointed to ensure compliance.

The responsible person can be held liable under civil and criminal law for any harm suffered to any person as a result of fire at the premises. A successful defence will likely rest on whether fire risk assessments were up to date, hazards had been identified and monitoring and mitigation systems were in place.

The existence of a recent fire certificate will not be seen as compliance. The new regulations not only impose a new assessment regime, but also impose stricter requirements in relation to risks. For example, the responsible person will have to keep abreast of changes in Building Regulations and practice and any impact on fire safety.

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