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Does a commercial tenant in a commercial building have responsibility for fire safety?

The Grenfell Tower fire struck on 14 June 2017 in the 24-storey block of public housing flats in North Kensington, West London, causing at least 80 deaths and initiated a debate into fire safety and the rights and responsibilities of tenants and landlords. in relation to fire safety in premises, including in commercial, as well as residential, premises.

When trying to establish who is responsible for fire safety the first point of reference, for any commercial tenant or landlord, should be the lease. Under the terms of standard commercial leases, the landlord or managing agent are ordinarily responsible for the fire precautions in the communal areas; i.e. the foyer, stair cases, landings etc. and they will also usually be responsible for the common systems such as the fire alarm, sprinklers and fire prevention apparatus. This brings about a duty on the part of the landlord and/or managing agent to ensure the adequacy of these fire precautions. However, commercial tenants should bear in mind that they cannot just leave it to the landlord and/or managing agent to ensure that fire precautions that affect the safety of individuals working in the premises are adequate. Commercial tenants will usually be responsible for the fire safety etc. within their demise and often an obligation not to hinder any fire escapes in the common parts including complying with fire legislation and any regulations put in place by the landlord or on recommendation from the fire authorities.

 

When trying to establish who is responsible for fire safety the first point of reference, for any commercial tenant or landlord, should be the lease.

The commercial premises from which the business entity is operating includes the communal areas and routes up to the point at which the individuals working within the commercial entity reach safety. Therefore, a responsible commercial landlord, through your fire risk assessment, should always ensure that the fire precautions in these communal areas are adequate for the safety of their employees. A responsible landlord should also co-operate with the landlord or managing agent in the coordination of fire precautions; for example, fire safety drills.

In conclusion, it is only a co-ordinated approach by both the landlord and the tenant that can ensure a cohesive approach which will ensure the safety of occupants in the premises.

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This information is for guidance purposes only and should not be regarded as a substitute for taking legal advice. Please refer to the full General Notices on our website.

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