COMMERCIAL PROPERTY: Don't Get Burned by New Law

Article excerpt

Byline: By John Duckers Business Editor

West Midlands' commercial property landlords and tenants are risking up to two years in prison for noncompliance with new fire regulations, simply as a result of their ignorance of the forthcoming changes, according to a survey by Black Country law firm George Green.

In a poll of commercial property landlords and tenants, based throughout Birmingham and the Black Country, the Cradley Heathbased solicitors found that more than 75 per cent of those questioned were unaware of the changes to fire regulations which are due to be introduced on October 1.

"The introduction of the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005, commonly referred to as the RRO, has already been postponed once," said George Green commercial property partner David Lucas.

"It should have come into force on April 1 this year, but the Government realised that very few businesses had heard about it, let alone become aware of their new obligations.

However, the situation is now hardly much better and is unlikely to change without a concerted publicity campaign."

The main change to fire regulation sees the fire certificate for commercial premises abolished in favour of a risk assessment and a "responsible person", who has to make and put into effect appropriate fire safety arrangements and precautions.

Where five or more people are employed, the risk assessment must be reported.

"The introduction of the concept of the 'relevant person' puts landlords and tenants in the firing line," said Mr Lucas.

"The responsible person is defined in relation to the premises. In the workplace this is usually the employer, but it is also any other person who may have control of any part of the premises, such as the landlord, managing agent or owner. …