Fire Safety in Empty Buildings: All You Need to Know
Do you own, or have you recently come into possession of, an empty, neglected or unoccupied building or property?
Think because there’s nobody inside or using it, you have no obligations when it comes to fire safety?
Think again. Here in the UK, the same rules apply to both empty and occupied buildings when it comes to fire safety. Whether commercial, residential or otherwise, in good condition or derelict, your responsibilities as landlord remain the same.
What risks do you need to be aware of?
Whilst fire safety in empty buildings is your responsibility as the landlord, your property may unfortunately fall foul to outside variables and be impacted by goings-on which you simply have no control over. With regard to empty buildings, antisocial behaviour sometimes leads to call outs from the fire service and, oftentimes in an unused building, the simple fact that no one is there regularly can sometimes lead to deterioration of either the building itself, the structures, or simply the fire safety equipment within. This in turn can promote fire hazards.
Another thing to think about – unpleasant as it may be – is the risk of pests becoming entrenched in your property and causing damage to wires, which in turn can cause mass damage to the electrics throughout the building. As a result, there’s a much higher risk for hazards to emerge with regards to electrical fires happening, once the building comes into use.
What can we do to control these risks?
There’s a lot to think about, given that all of the usual fire risks apply on top of everything we’ve just mentioned! Many insurers also want to see that you’re raking a proactive approach to fire safety in empty buildings.
Our advice is to be present; conduct regular checks on the building itself in person, and install security features so you can keep an eye on things in the meantime. This could also help you mitigate any issues before they become such. Be sure to remove anything which poses an extra risk or fire hazard, such as particularly combustible materials (carpets, wall coverings and other bits which are likely going to be removed anyway at a later date), so that if a fire did break out, there’s less fuel for it to take hold of.
Make sure you do install the required fire detection equipment from the day you take ownership and, most importantly, when you are ready to go, ensure you have a thorough pre-occupation survey and fire risk assessment completed. This part, we can help you with – go to the contact us page on our website or send Matt Digby a line on LinkedIn; we’d love to come out and take a look at how we can ensure the safety and compliance of your property, empty or not.