Fire Safety Regulations for apartments has been a critical part of building finishes since the infamous inferno in Grenfell tower.
We have received inquiries from clients seeking to understand how fire safety laws affect their buildings or a property they plan to buy.
We have listed some of the Frequently Asked Questions about Fire Safety Regulations for Apartment below.
What are the Fire Security Changes in Apartments?
One of the most considerable changes will be the newly introduced fire security Bill which took effect in April 2021.
The critical components of the bill comprise a Party Wall Notice that external building walls, finishes, and fire doors for private areas of multiple ownership should abide by.
These changes will apply in new constructions and existing sections of the building where guaranteeing compliance is necessary.
The regulations were updated in 2020 to include sprinklers in newly constructed residential apartments of between 11 meters and above.
Also included was the signage requirement in newly constructed residential apartments whose top floor is over 11 meters from the ground level.
What is my Obligation as an Apartment Owner?
Each block of apartments, regardless of the size, should have a fire exposure assessment. The building owner, icon surveyors, or agent should determine the materials used to construct their buildings.
They should confirm components of the wall system and determine whether an evaluation is necessary.
The newly launched fire security act requires building owners to assess balconies, fire doors, and windows in apartment blocks.
The new fire security regulation will cover every residential building with more than six stories. Sprinklers will be installed in buildings measuring 11 meters.
While there is no set timeline on how frequently fire security reviews will be done, the fire security law demands that evaluation on newly constructed buildings should be done bi-yearly.
Older buildings or high-storied apartment blocks will be evaluated annually.
What is an EWS1? Is It Necessary?
EWS1 (external wall fire review) form allows owners of residential buildings to prove to valuers and lenders that a Party wall surveyor has evaluated the external finishes.
Previously, the focus was on eliminating ACM (aluminium composite material) from buildings measuring 18 meters and above.
The Party Wall Act has since broadened this requirement to incorporate various inflammable finishing types.
EWS1 forms are not a legal requirement but the data collected is crucial for valuation.
Lenders can dissent an application for a mortgage where the EWS1 form is not produced, but this is purely a commercial decision.
Previously, the regulation covered buildings measuring 18 meters and above. However, evaluation and management of external fire from spreading are applicable in all buildings.
On 21 November, RICS, UK Finance, the government, and the Building Societies Association concluded that the EWS1 was not necessary for re-mortgages and sales on apartments without finishes.
You may require an EWS1 form if your building has inflammable finishes.
How does this Fire Safety Regulation Affect Leaseholders?
The crucial element of the fire security evaluation is the cost involved in remedial activities after an assessment.
The building owner or a separate leaseholder may need to pay for possible remedial activities where necessary. This is a massive problem because the cost of fixing issues in one apartment can cost more than £50,000.
This cost is usually applied by increasing service charges. A task as simple as installing a sprinkler can cost up to £10,000.
There have been numerous news reports recently of people missing out on mortgages or being unable to dispose of their properties due to building finishes.
The government recently chipped in to bear the cost of removing dangerous finishes on behalf of leaseholders in high-rise apartments.
Leaseholders in apartments of between 11 to 18 meters can now enjoy a government-sponsored financing Party Wall Agreement.
Mortgage providers can now be assured that lending buildings where finishing is necessary will be worth trying.
In a detailed case in South London after a fire evaluation, the landlord attempted to petition the leaseholder to bear the cost of remedial activities after declining to cater the expenses themselves.
How will this Fire Safety Regulation Affect the Sale of a Building or the Purchase of a New Apartment?
In 2019, lenders started evaluating the safety level of external Party Wall Agreements before certifying mortgage applications.
One of the main concerns was that high-rise apartments were not secure enough and owners of the buildings were responsible for the remediation expenses.
Numerous mortgage applications then were declined which resulted in a drop-in sale.
Regarding the sale of property, your evaluation may showcase work that should be executed before disposing of the property.
Sometimes the new owner may be willing to fix some of the minor issues after negotiating a price reduction.
Fire security is a complex matter.
Even though we have addressed some of the main questions we have received over time, it is advisable to always talk to professionals for clarifications.