A manager of a block of flats, who appealed an enforcement notice issued by the fire service on the basis that he was not responsible for the flat doors or the fire alarm system, has had his appeal dismissed by a Cheshire court.
David Jones, a freehold owner and manager of a converted mill containing 8 flats in Macclesfield, Cheshire, had appealed an enforcement notice served upon him by Cheshire Fire and Rescue Service in July 2022.
The notice had required Mr Jones to rectify breaches of the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 (the FSO) in relation to the compartmentation of the building; the electrical installation; risk assessment; fire alarm; emergency lighting; and the safety of exit routes. He had also been required to co-operate and coordinate with the leaseholders within the premises to ensure compliance with the FSO.
Mr Jones had appealed the notice on the basis that he did not have access to the properties to which the notice related. He stated that he was not able to enter the leaseholders flats to install a fire alarm and that he was not responsible for their flat doors. He outlined that the leaseholders each paid £30 per month as a management fee, but this did not cover the fire safety provision in the premises. He stated that his role was only to manage the building structure and common areas.
Warren Spencer, solicitor for Cheshire FRS, told the court that the fire service had written to Mr Jones requesting copies of the various leases held with the leaseholders. Mr Jones had stated that he did not have copies of the leases. Mr Spencer showed Mr Jones a copy of a lease provided to CFRS by one of the flat owners, which contained clauses outlining that he, as the landlord did have access to the properties provided appropriate notice was given, and that he as the building manager and freeholder of the property, was responsible for the fire safety provision in the premises.
Mr Jones replied that he was unaware of the fine detail contained in the lease.
Fire safety inspector Jean Parr told the court that she had decided to issue the notice after carrying out a fire safety audit of the premises. During the audit and inspection she had found various breaches of compartmentation within the premises, no emergency lighting, loose banister rails with missing spindles on the escape route and no external handrail for steps leading from the entrance/exit. She explained that the premises did not contain an appropriate fire alarm system and that the fire risk assessment carried out by Jones was not suitable and sufficient and did not comply with article 9 of the FSO.
Station Manager Carl Rainbird told the court that Mr Jones had identified himself as the freeholder of the building and as a result of the lease showing that he was the building manager, he was responsible for the control of the common parts of the building. SM Rainbird told the court that he was satisfied that the notice had been correctly drafted and issued to the right person, namely Mr Jones.
District Judge John McGarva said that Jones had given the impression of trying to “wash his hands of any responsibility”. The Judge was satisfied that there had been numerous breaches of the Fire Safety Order and that Jones was the responsible person for the premises. He found that he was satisfied that the flats did not have fire doors at their entrances, and that this was Mr Jones responsibility, as it impacted upon the common areas which were part of the escape routes.
DJ McGarva found that he was satisfied that the existing fire alarm was inadequate and that although individual flat owners had their own responsibilities, it was necessary for the person responsible for the common areas to also take action. He said that he was also satisfied that Jones had not cooperated with the flat owners to ensure the collective safety of the residents and had shown a disregard for his obligations and sought to avoid any responsibility.
DJ McGarva stated that the issuing of the notice had been entirely proper and that the appeal must fail.
He ordered Jones to pay the £4199 costs incurred by the fire service.
Fire Safety Lawyer