• The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 places legal responsibilities on the “responsible person” for non-domestic premises and common parts of domestic premises (including flat entrance doors and external walls including windows, balconies, cladding, insulation and external wall fixings. 

    The Building Safety Act 2022, which became law in April 2022 but which is subject to a transitional period, aims to improve fire and structural safety in and around buildings. Amongst other things, it requires the appointment of additional duty holders, sets protections for leaseholders, and changes the process for obtaining approval for building work. It also imposes penalties on those who will not take action to replace unsafe cladding on their buildings.

    We know the importance for organisations in both ensuring and demonstrating compliance, and in advising on the issues which arise in cases of non-compliance (including funding work to put things right). Our highly experienced and dedicated team has advised organisations on building and fire safety issues, including local authorities, health bodies, Universities, private companies, contractors and housing associations.  We have a deep understanding of our client’s concerns and objectives, including regulatory challenges, governance issues and reputation management.

    We work across a range of disciplines, including property, construction, litigation and regulatory, to provide our clients with the best advice on a range of issues, including removal of non-compliant material, dealing with enforcement notices and challenging contractors to undertake remedial works.

    Our team also routinely advises Fire Authorities in respect of inquests relating to deaths arising from fire, and with enforcement (including drafting and serving enforcement and improvement notices). 

    Articles of interest
  • Advising on replacement of defective ACM cladding

    Shortly after the Grenfell Tower disaster, we were instructed by a large housing association to advise on which parties were legal responsible for the substantial (over £1m) cost of funding the removal of defective ACM cladding from a recently constructed tower block and its replacement with compliant materials. This work involved a review of the relevant property and construction documents, and consideration of whether liability sat with the association, the former owner, the developer of the scheme and/or the cladding manufacturer.

    Advice on defects in hospitals

    Working with NHS Trusts, we have provided advice on legal requirements for fire safety in NHS buildings, including:

    • Compliance with the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005
    • Claims against Project Companies under PFI Contracts
    • Carrying out a full review of statutory compliance, including fire safety, asbestos management, electrical safety, medical gases, water safety and occupiers’ liability
    • non-compliant combustible insulation - installed as part of the cladding at hospital premises - in respect of potential claims against contractors and designers, progressing claims as required and negotiating the terms of settlement for the rectification works.

    We have also advised a Project Company on a PFI contract on issues arising from the service of an enforcement notice.

    Advice on management of properties/housing stock

    Working together with the one the largest property and leisure management, development and regeneration companies in the UK on ways to ensure statutory compliance for group-owned commercial properties in a number of different leasing and property management scenarios.  This also included where management of stock is outsourced to an independent managing agent.

    We advised a Managing Agent on a settlement with a construction company which had built an estate without the necessary fire breaks between properties.

    We work in partnership with housing associations on fire safety issues, including advice on:

    • the wording of  leases in order to enable the association to ascertain liability for upgrading fire doors, in circumstances where leaseholders in the same block had differently worded leases
    • potential claims against house builder developers.  

    Advising housing associations on the Accountable Person requirements

    We have advised a number of housing associations on the new requirement to appoint an Accountable Person, what duties this party will have and which party should be appointed. We have also advised more generally on the duties under the Building Safety Act and the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 and whom these duties fall upon.

    Fire Authorities

    Following deaths of a number of vulnerable adults in a hospital and others in their own homes, we advised a Fire Authority in relation to inquests. This included reviewing the appropriateness of the their response to the fires, the preparation of witness statements and inquest advocacy.

    We also provided advice to a Fire Authority in relation to its enforcement powers and the appropriate enforcement action to be taken in light of a fire in a hospital: reviewing of the hospital’s fire safety audits, its current processes and procedures, and advice on which enforcement options met the fire authority’s enforcement model and public interest considerations.

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